I just got off the phone with Southwest Airlines. I am planning a trip to southern California to visit my children for Thanksgiving and was delighted to see the senior rates still available. So the season begins full of delights but often fraught with challenges.
The holidays have changed for many “boomers” and the “matures”. Our children are grown and with homes and families of there own. What was once a simple family affair has turned in to a complex event calling for thoughtful planning and psychological awareness.
Location, location, location is more important than just for real estate. Many families and friends are spread out across the continent and around the globe. The cost of travel is high in these tough economic times. Some families find a way by meeting half way so no one bears the brunt of the costs. Some vary the location every other year. I know a family that finds a vacation rental home and shares the financial burden and festive chores without anyone feeling overburdened with the hosting. The trick is to work out the location of the celebration far enough in advance so that everyone feels at ease about the plans, eliminating last minute stress and anxiety.
Sometimes as we age, travel feels overwhelming. Then we feel it would be better just to stay home. Some of us may feel that we are being marginalized by the younger generation. We may not know how to work the i-phone or text message, and the conversation moves to pop culture events that are not on our radar. But, I think it is important to stretch our selves and connect with friends and family over the holiday season. Studies show we maintain better health in every aspect as we age, if we have strong connections with family and friends.
Remember, one of the challenges of our developmental stage is to embrace the complexities of life. Staying home alone is one of the worst things to do. The holidays can be a painful time for some of us. It is the time when suicides tend to rise. Many seniors fall into depression or turn to alcohol and drugs during the holiday season. St John’s in Oakland always has a Thanksgiving feast for those who are alone at this quintessential American holiday. So find a way to gather with folks to share good cheer and conversation.
Another area of difficulty during the holidays is the challenge of blended families and multiple ex spouses. Remember, one of the tasks of this stage of life is to embrace the complexities of our lives. Make careful choices about who will participate in different gatherings. Don’t assume that it will all just work its way out. We must think about the dynamics before we organize or attend a family holiday party.
Our families are multifaceted and challenge us to open our hearts and minds to many different patterns of relationships and interactions. There is no longer one “traditional” family. We are learning to find a solid sense of family and community by embracing every widening circles of relationship.
Gifts, too, can be a challenge in these financial stressful times. Some families exchange names. Some have stopped exchanging and instead have made a contribution to their favorite charity or cause for instance Kiva. Some decide to give of their time by working in a food kitchen or a drop in shelter. Others donate a needed skill or talent on a pro bono basis.
Many of us make our presents by hand. I often begin making knitted holiday gifts at the beginning of the year (I am a slow knitter) and it cuts down on the last minute rush (www.piedmontyarn.com). I also have the pleasure of reflecting on and appreciating the friends and family members I am knitting for throughout the year.
If you love to purchase your gifts and by doing so are helping the economy at this time, you can double your gift giving impact by going to http://www.goodshop.com/ and purchase your gifts to benefit The Friends of Ruwenzori.
The gift of these hard economic times is to find the true values of the Holiday Season, connection, generosity of self, openness to change and the richness of life. Are you ready for the challenge?
I would love to hear your thoughts about the holidays as we age.