Celebrating the holidays in senior living communities
At senior living communities like Carolina Bay, residents can enjoy chef-made meals, community celebrations, and stress-free family visits.Posted — Updated
For many families, traditions are one of the most important parts of the holiday season. Whether it's gathering together for a family meal, exchanging gifts, or attending a special event, holiday traditions are a unique chance to set aside the regular busyness of the year and come together to celebrate.
While some people may think that living in a senior living community means ending those holiday traditions, it's quite the opposite. In fact, it may even be a chance to start a few new ones.
"The entire community here — residents and their families as well as our staff — come together to celebrate the holidays," said Nancy (Bartlett) Diebler, marketing director for Carolina Bay, a retirement community in Wilmington. "Some people might be upset that they aren't at their home for the holidays anymore, but it's the exact opposite here. There's so much to do and so much fun, and we even have a lot of activities going throughout the entire holiday season."
At Carolina Bay, for example, during the winter holiday season residents can enjoy festive musical performances, door decorating competitions and carols from visiting elementary schoolers. The doors of the senior living community are also open to family and visitors. Private dining rooms can be reserved, and the community chef can prepare any special dishes requested.
For those who don't have visiting family or loved ones, the holidays can be a lonely time. In a senior living community, however, there's a prevailing sense of togetherness.
"During the holidays here, nobody's alone — and that's one of the best parts about living here. You're not sitting at home by yourself. You've got a whole community and a sense of family here," said Diebler. "If a resident doesn't have family in town, one of the neighbors will often invite them over to their family's house, instead. Even the staff, we all feel like we're part of the extended family of everyone here. It's a great feeling, and especially so at the holidays."
Oftentimes, individual floors of the community will have their own smaller celebrations, as well. Diebler recalls one floor hosting a holiday potluck and another ventured downtown to look at the lights and decorations.
It's not just the winter holiday season that brings festivities to senior communities. Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day — the calendar of events is full year-round. Since residents may have different beliefs and traditions, Carolina Bay in particular tries to embrace all types of celebrations.
"Anytime we can celebrate a holiday here, we definitely are. We have people here of Jewish faith, so we do celebrate Hanukkah, we have Easter activities, Fourth of July cookouts — we try to find a way to make every holiday special," said Diebler.
For Diebler and her coworkers, the holiday season is the perfect illustration of just how active residents' lives are, but the activity hardly stops after the holidays. For residents of Carolina Bay, year-round wellness programs, clubs, and classes keep residents busy and engaged.
While some people may have the misconception that residents in a senior living community spend their time "sitting in a rocking chair," Diebler emphasized just how incorrect that sentiment is.
"Nobody is sitting at home alone — there are so many friendships right here, everywhere you look. These people are always busy enjoying life. They can even have their family come here and not have to worry about cooking or baking or hosting pressure, because we help with it all. They're free to enjoy spending quality time with their kids and their grandkids and not have to worry about getting the house clean or going grocery shopping," said Diebler. "We want this to be a fun place during the holidays for not only our residents, but also their families — and I really think it's a one-of-a kind experience."
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