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BellaOnline's Senior Living Editor

Helping the Elderly During the Holiday Season

Perhaps you spent time with those less fortunate over Thanksgiving providing food and offering comfort. What a gift! Perhaps you enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends and found that to be a time of good food and fun. Give thanks. Perhaps you have survived Black Wednesday, Friday or Monday and have a smile on your face. Be a little more thankful. Perhaps you have begun Christmas shopping with cash in your wallet and a little money to spend. Be grateful. Perhaps you are putting up the tree, your house is filled with Santa's helpers, a fire is blazing, Christmas music is blaring and there are sweet treats to share. Count your blessings.

But for the elderly, the shut-ins, or those living in facilities the holiday season can be a time of loneliness, darkness and depression.

According to the National Survey for Suicide Prevention: the suicide rate among adults aged 75 and older is nearly 23 per 100,000.

Dr. Steven P. Roose, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, notes some important signs to watch out for depression among the elderly. Do you notice a loss of interest in activities and people? Is there a heightened sense of difficulty to concentrate or become overly focused on worry?

Is there an older adult living on your street or in your neighborhood who could use your help?

Here are some hints for the holidays. Consider dropping by with a strand of lights that you can hang in the window and share some joy. Perhaps your elderly neighbor doesn't drive anymore or cannot handle the mall. Are there cards or stamps or a gift you can pick up for him or her? There are activities at the local senior center where just a few hours of your time can make a difference. Your help is needed with wrapping gifts or gift giving for the elderly. Or as you are baking that batch of Christmas cookies, Chanukah Mandel Bread or a special dinner, make a little extra for the senior who doesn't cook anymore.

Sharing your gift or special talent is a gift for someone else. This is the true meaning of this season.

Do you remember that long running, successful television show, Golden Girls, about four widowed or divorced women over 60 who shared a home in Florida? Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia were ďahead of their timeĒ. With all of their conflicts and issues of aging they faced them together and solved them around a kitchen table over a slice of cheesecake. Yes, they had something in common: companionship.

Itís still early enough in the season to share a little joy, be a companion and bring some warmth to someone a little older, a little lonelier than yourself.

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