The holiday season is here — a time to be with family and friends and to celebrate. Make the most of it, but while doing so, pay attention to the special needs of aging friends and family.

Aging parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends have traditions that date to their youth; many customs have been handed down through the generations. This year, spend time in conversation; include your children and grandchildren. Ask your elders what the holidays meant to them growing up.

It’s my belief that our parents and grandparents are more closely tied to holiday rituals than we are. Closely listen to their recollections; then, help them reenact their special traditions.

Aging creates challenges 

When making holiday plans, think through the needs of the aging.

When asked, elders often respond, “Don’t make any special accommodations for me.” They say this because they don’t want you to do extra work or change plans on their account.

Many elders are amazingly capable. They live active lives and drive themselves everywhere. However, difficulty with night vision comes with age. With our Seattle gray, overcast skies, twilight begins as early as 3:30 p.m. during the holiday season. With this in mind and without saying why, start your holiday events early in the day. If you are concerned about an elder driving, pick them up and return them home after the day’s celebrations.

Be sure stairs are well-lit both inside and outside the home. If you can, keep the holiday activities on a single level in your home. If elders are frail or unsteady, ensure their safety by escorting them up and down stairs. To avoid stumbles and falls, remove throw rugs.

Hearing loss is common. To accommodate participation in conversation, keep background music and noises levels low. If the kids want to play loudly, send them to another part of the house, like the basement or a bedroom.

Your elders will appreciate the work you do to make their holidays more enjoyable and safe. Having our elders participate in the holidays is a blessing for both the older and younger generations. Share your memories and your love for one another.

One-on-one celebrations

Seattle has many holiday traditions. Create some new lasting memories by making holiday dates with your elders.

Here are some ideas: Bundle up and attend the Macy’s parade; while there, view the holiday displays in the windows at Macy’s and Nordstrom and take time to see the gingerbread houses at the Sheraton Hotel. Listen to carolers by catching the sights and sounds of the Christmas Ships on Lake Washington. Enjoy an evening drive around Seattle’s neighborhoods to see the holiday lights. Attend a “Nutcracker” performance. Take your elders to your children’s or grandchildren’s holiday school programs. And take them to their traditional holiday religious services.

Unfortunately for many elders, getting out for holiday events may be difficult or impossible. If an elder is suffering from confusion or dementia or has severely impacted mobility, it may be unwise to entice them to events at your home. Confusion can result from surroundings that seem unfamiliar and from environments that are noisy.

If your elder can’t get out, plan a special holiday time and bring the holidays to them. This can range from an all-day event — preparing and cooking the family holiday meal at the elder’s home — to a few hours designated just for them where you sit quietly, visit, share food and open gifts. Have some holiday music playing quietly in the background.

How many should visit at one time? Can you bring all the kids? Well, it depends. Check-in with the elder’s caregivers to assess how much activity is appropriate, and limit it accordingly. Most elders love seeing children, and they especially love babies. But, remember, elders can tire easily.

Many senior living facilities have holiday celebrations to which families are invited; most of these celebrations are held several days before the actual holiday. The staff goes all-out to make these celebrations special. Make it a point that your entire family attends.

And, remember, as part of your holiday-season celebration, encourage conversation. Ask elders to share their memories and then create special moments that uphold their traditions. Brew some meaningful moments that are full of love and celebration of family.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to