Use Holiday Movies and Traditions to Engage Seniors


Most of us have favorite holiday movies or television specials that evoke the comfort of cherished memories. Not only are watching these with family a way to connect during the season, the well-worn rituals have a calming and grounding effect for most of us. Enjoying holiday movies with senior loved ones, especially those with memory impairment, is a great way to engage them with a familiar past era.

While drawing older adults into common family holiday activities can be very beneficial, studies show that too much stimuli often produces negative, stressful responses in those suffering from dementia. There may be specific limitations you should observe. Although short-term memory is often impaired in mid- to later-stage dementia patients, they may be able to access some long-term memories. So recalling a fond holiday movie with a beloved actor might be a delightful way to share in an experience with seniors.

The blog “Senior Care Corner” has a terrific list of some of the most common media memories, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby. However, there are lesser-known holiday movies that might strike a chord with your older adult loved one:

“Holiday Inn” – Starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this movie has a similar “let’s put on a Christmas show!” theme as “White Christmas” and the dance numbers are Astaire perfect.

“Christmas in Connecticut” – This hard-to-find romantic comedy stars Barbara Stanwyck as a working journalist posing as a homemaker to fool her boyfriend.


Do Your Research to Uncover Traditions

Ask your senior family member what traditions they enjoyed at holiday time. It’s helpful to show them photographs and other memory aids. Here are a few memory-joggers:

  • Did you enjoy ice skating or sleigh rides?
  • What type of favorite foods did you have during the holidays?
  • What did you put on your Christmas tree? (Go through a box of decorations or ornaments with them.)
  • Did family members come from far away to visit?

Keep in mind that your loved one with memory issues may not be able to answer these cues, but will hopefully enjoy time with you and it may spark some fond remembrances.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.