This year in Collinsville, it wasn’t the pitter patter of little feet or the elves on the shelves who magically decorated the Christmas tree. It was the start of a new holiday tradition that connects friends and builds community.
With all of the changes residents experience when making a move to assisted living, it is important that they are able to continue with traditions, and in the case of this Collinsville community, create a new tradition.
“Our residents have had full lives, and I think sometimes that can be overlooked. They did family things and though they’ve slowed down it doesn’t mean they don’t miss those things,” said Janet Self, business office manager at Cedarhurst of Collinsville.
With this in mind, the residents and staff members of Cedarhurst of Collinsville joined together dressed in their pajamas, just like they would in their own homes to deck the halls and the Christmas tree.
In a mix of old memories and new traditions, Christmas music played in the background and everyone sipped hot cocoa, ate cookies and sang Christmas carols while placing ornaments on the tree, much like the residents did in their homes all of the years before.
“The PJ party was cozy, with music playing in the background. We sang christmas carols, drank hot cocoa, and people hung decorations on the tree. The ladies thought it was funny to wear their pajamas. Some of us in the office wore funny pajamas too,” said Self.
The residents mingled and talked to one another, asking for the opinion of their neighbors about where to place an ornament on the tree. It was a great time for residents to bond with one another and strengthen friendships. Smiles and laughter came easy.
“All through life from the time we are born and grow, we meet new people. Some stay and some go. There is no reason to stop meeting people at any age,” said Self.
For some seniors moving from home to assisted living is unsettling to the point that their trust is shaken. Interestingly enough, it seems for some that trust comes more easily with someone in pajamas.
Almost as important as trust is forming new traditions, and carrying on old traditions, as much as possible. Traditions can help people feel positively connected to their past, or develop new relationships with others in their present.
“Our message to residents consistently focuses on not forgetting about their past. We want them to tell us about their past and let us see if there is anything we can do to help them do what they want to do again. Then, they are going forward and this should be a new, happy venture, but we want to know what would they’d like to do, what would make you feel good today. They have had to make major changes that maybe they didn’t want to make. Shouldn’t we try make this as pleasant and happy as we can,” said Self.
Another favorite new tradition residents have enjoyed this Christmas season is watching old movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.