For many people, holiday parties and family gatherings are the star of the yearly schedule. They’re the perfect excuse to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy fun seasonal activities, and show off cooking and decorating skills. However, it can be tricky to host a party as a senior. This may be doubly true if the pandemic years brought changes to your living situation or your health.
How do you pull off a seasonal celebration that’s remembered for the right reasons? Invest wisely, looking beyond just finances to your space, time and energy as well. Splurge on the most important parts of the holiday get-together and scale back where it matters less. Here are some ways that seniors can hack their holiday planning.
If you’re an old hand at hosting, you know how many hours go into covering your home and yard with seasonal cheer. But your favorite elements can get lost in the blinking lights, twinkling tinsel and inflatable reindeer. So figure out where you can get the most bang for your buck or your time. This might be a table centerpiece, a beautiful tree or colorful fairy lights. The good news is that you can set up and troubleshoot these decorations well ahead of time. Take time not to rush and stumble, or trigger your life alert system. Don’t overextend. Preparation in advance here sets you free to concentrate on other things closer to the big day.
Holiday meals tend to be big, elaborate and time-consuming to make. Even if you love cooking and want to show off those skills, you can make some smart substitutions here. For instance, you can get quality vegetable sides and fresh-baked bread from a local store. Nobody will notice the difference. They’ll be too busy digging into that main dish you’ve worked so hard on.
If cooking isn’t where you want to invest your time and energy, food is one of the easiest areas to find shortcuts. More casual and homey parties may find potlucks a natural fit. Just get a family chat going about who’s bringing what dish so you don’t end up with five trays of crudités.
If you’re having a traditional meal, you can order these from a local restaurant. They’ll be delivered perfectly cooked and ready to go. Make sure you reserve the order well ahead of time. Lots of people are embracing this holiday hack, so you’ll want to get your place in line.
This one’s especially important if you’ve moved or downsized homes in the last year. Forget about how many guests you can squeeze in. Instead, consider how many guests you can comfortably host.
If the new place is half the size of your old home, you may want a more intimate party with half the guests. Meanwhile, nice weather lets you host a daytime party that expands to the backyard. Do you have relatives in the area with a bigger home? You may be able to join forces with them and throw a combined party.
Many holiday parties start with guests trickling in throughout the day and end with a big holiday meal. However, this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for everyone and every schedule. You may have more success with an open-house holiday. This lets family and friends come and go from morning to evening. If you have caregivers who aren’t family, this drop-in kind of format will make it easier for them to look in on you to see you you’re doing. You’ll be able to catch up and spend more quality, one-on-one time with your guests. It also takes the pressure off you as a host. You can use lulls in the activity to replenish snacks, sort gifts, or even sneak in a quick nap. This will boost your energy levels for later waves of guests.
Here’s one tip that can solve the problems of both smaller homes and tangled guest schedules. Instead of in-person parties, what about a virtual one? You can celebrate the day via Zoom or other video calling services – and you may even find the free options extended for holidays.
Some seniors combine an in-person party with a few virtual guests who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it. Other people throw a virtual-only party. You and the clan can watch movies together, share the joy as the grandkids unwrap presents, and more. Virtual parties are also a good choice for seniors with fragile health. They can protect themselves without missing out on building connections and memories.
Watching the big game. Picking a tree. Going caroling. Making your own decorations. The list of holiday activities is a long one, but hosts may not have the time or energy to tackle even half of these. Don’t forget to consult your physician or drop in at your local urgent care to check your vitals and get advice on your capabilities before embarking on unusual activity. To keep from being left out, figure out which activities at the party mean the most to you. Schedule the day around these key events. Alternatively, ask someone else to briefly take over hosting duties so you can join in the fun.
After the Party
It may not be pretty, but post-holiday cleanup is another important factor to budget for. One easy hack here is to embrace paper and plastic. Modern single-use cutlery and plates can be affordable, recyclable, and quite classy looking. Instead of facing down a Mount Everest of dirty dishes, you can just bag them up.
What about the rest of it? Well, you can always lean on outside help to get your home tidy. Drop hints to your loved ones before the holiday and you may be ‘surprised’ with a gift card to a local cleaning service. Some of them can also help you break down and box up your decorations, so you’re set for next year’s holiday season.