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How can you make Christmas accessible for older guests?

This festive season many people will be gathering together with family and friends for celebrations, laughter and sharing in wonderful memories. But these gatherings may need to be more accessible in order to include your older loved one.

Last updated: December 11th 2023
Making Christmas accessible and enjoyable for older family members can take a little planning, but is an important consideration. [Source: Unsplash]

Making Christmas accessible and enjoyable for older family members can take a little planning, but is an important consideration. [Source: Unsplash]

Key points

  • The holiday season is a time of joy and sharing special moments with your family, so it’s important to make Christmas accessible for older family members
  • Think about the different kinds of accessibility needs they might have and talk to them about it
  • Planning ahead for an accessible event will make everything go more smoothly

Older people may have mobility issues, use assistive technology such as wheelchairs and hearing aids, or have sensory difficulties.

This article provides suggestions of how you can provide an accessible event for older adults in your family or community.

Accessibility factors

Many people understand accessibility includes wheelchair access, and it is important that if your older guests use a wheelchair they can fit through doors and hallways. However, there are many other factors to accessibility as well.

It might help to consider the level of noise at your Christmas party, whether there are quiet spaces people can go to for a break, and how overwhelming your venue is visually for people with sensory difficulties.

For example, if one of your guests uses hearing aids then having loud music playing in the background while you’re playing a separate game or doing a Christmas activity could be distracting and they might not be able to be as engaged as they’d like.

Or if you have flashing lights around your house and on your Christmas tree, they could cause issues for people with sensory challenges. Turning flashing lights off or onto a solid setting could help guests with sensitivities, including people with dementia, to avoid stress and anxiety.

Consider what venue is most suited to the mobility aids, equipment or support workers which your family members or friends might bring along. Is your house big enough to accommodate these considerations or would it be better to go to a park, for example?

Alongside the type of venue you choose, consider how far away the location is from your guests and how easy it will be for them to get there.

A little bit of understanding about these factors goes a long way to helping your older guest feel comfortable, welcome and included.

As people will have different accessibility requirements, if you’re unsure what changes need to be made the best thing to do is to ask the person respectfully what they would like to adjust. If they are not sure what they will need you could try asking their carer or regular care workers.

Planning and preparation

It’s always a good practice to make your events as open and accessible as possible for all of your family members. Doing this regularly for family gatherings, birthdays and other celebrations can create comfort for everyone and it will only become easier to make sure each event is inclusive, as this kind of planning will become a habit.

But it’s important to know that even if accessibility requires a little more effort or thought and is not natural for you, it’s best not to make an unnecessary fuss about it.

If you make a huge fuss it can cause embarrassment and discomfort for you or your guests, particularly your older loved one.

Just keeping your family and friends in the loop by giving as much notice as you can will allow for the preparation you and your guests might need to ensure the even is accessible for your older family member.

This means sharing the details of location, time, activities involved, what guests need to bring and what food or drinks will be served.

When you’re inviting guests, don’t pass over anyone who you think might need adjustments to help them enjoy the event or who it might be “too hard” to invite. Thinking about the accessibility of the event beforehand will ensure you can invite everyone and not exclude older people.

Additionally, you should never assume a potential guest will not want to join your event, always ask them.

If your loved one lives in a nursing home, consider visiting them on Christmas day if they are not comfortable leaving the home.

However, if they are willing and able to leave the facility, arrange for them to join your event. This might mean picking them up in your car and packing the walking frame or booking a wheelchair accessible taxi to pick them up and bring them to the event.

It is likely you will need to be the one to plan for your relative to come along, as it may be difficult for them to coordinate everything themselves.

You can read more about when residents can leave aged care facilities and the protocols in our guide ‘Leaving aged care – daily and holidays’.

How do you include older family members in Christmas celebrations? Tell us in the comments below and subscribe to the FREE weekly newsletter for more information and industry updates!

Related content:
Having hard conversations during the holidays
Making Christmas more dementia friendly
How to plan for busy holidays


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