Americans of all ages look forward to Halloween each year. Many seniors have fond memories of their own children trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. But this holiday can be difficult for some seniors. Elderly adults might feel isolated or alone on such a social holiday. And the doorbell constantly going off and gruesome costumes can be frightening for a senior with dementia. But here are some ways to ensure that seniors enjoy Halloween.
1. Attend a Party
Some seniors find it difficult being alone on holidays. Check and see if your local senior or community center is having a Halloween gathering or invite your loved ones to a neighborhood or family celebration. Good food and good company is enough to help anyone enjoy the evening.
If there aren't any Halloween parties going on, you could even invite them to come to your house to help pass out candy. Being with friends and family can help lift their spirits.
2. Dress Up
Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the theatrics of Halloween. Seniors can have fun dressing up if they want to! Here are some easy costume ideas that are perfect for wearing to a Halloween party. Costumes can help seniors feel more youthful and vivacious!
Just make sure that costumes don’t affect your loved one’s gait or cause them to trip over fabric. Costumes should also be comfortable so seniors can go to the bathroom easily when duty calls.
3. Have an Adult Present
For some seniors, the idea of getting in and out of a chair to open the door and pass out candy can make the holiday difficult. Seniors who live alone might also feel scared to open the door for so many strangers. If this is the case, have another adult on hand to help a senior feel safe and to assist with passing out candy.
Another idea is to position yourself and the senior adult outside, before the kids reach door. This way the senior adult can remain seated while enjoying the kids and their costumes.
4. Choose Senior-Friendly Candy
One of the best parts about Halloween is arguably the candy. But not all candy is safe for seniors to eat. Seniors are at a higher risk of choking than kids are. And teeth become more brittle as we age, making hard candies more hazardous. Seniors might also have dentures, which can’t handle chewing some candies. To help you and your aging loved one enjoy Halloween to its fullest, buy candy that they can safely eat and enjoy.
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5. Put Up Safe Decorations
Halloween has some of the best decorations of all the holidays. However, some of these decorations could pose safety hazards to seniors. Seniors prone to hallucinations or who suffer from cognitive decline may become confused, scared, or agitated by even the tamest spooky decorations.
Generally, try to keep large Halloween décor outside. Make sure decorations don’t block walking paths or leave tripping hazards, like wires across the floor. You may want to turn off motion-activated decorations when senior loved ones are home to avoid scaring them. Ensure that there is enough light inside and outside so that a senior has good visibility.
6. Watch a Movie
There are plenty of Halloween movies for people of all ages. A family-friendly flick is a great choice to help seniors get in the spirit of Halloween without getting scared. Put on a movie and enjoy some popcorn, apple cider, and other fall treats. If you have a subscription to a streaming service, keep an eye on their movie library during October because they usually add Halloween movies.
7. Decorate a Pumpkin
Seniors can decorate a pumpkin before or on Halloween. And that doesn’t always mean carving a pumpkin, which can require a lot of strength and dexterity. Seniors can decorate pumpkins with tape, yarn, paper, paint, felt, and other crafting materials. You could also opt for decorating pumpkin-shaped cookies instead of an actual pumpkin.
Of course, if a senior wants to make a traditional jack-o-lantern, you can help them carve it safely. Offer to do the carving if they pick out the design. Then, involve them in tasks that don’t involve sharp objects, like wiping down the pumpkin after it has been carved or separating the seeds from the guts.
8. Don't Participate
Opting out of Halloween is okay too. Some seniors may not want to participate. If this is the case, suggest leaving a bowl of candy outside their door. Maybe place a note on their door indicating they are “busy flying around the neighborhood” or a cute Halloween poem in keeping with the theme of the holiday. At the least, turn the outside porch lights off to let trick-or-treaters know that your home isn't participating this year.
We hope these ideas help to make Halloween fun and safe for your aging loved one. If your loved one needs assistance to enjoy the festivities, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Caring team near you. Have a “spook-tacular” Halloween!