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Christmas activities make spirits bright

Activities abound at senior's residences year-round. But during the holidays, when those without family or friends nearby can find the festive season a bit lonely, special events are even more important to fostering a sense of community.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and it’s not just the weather. The dedicated staff at senior residences are making preparations for the holiday season with quality of life front and centre.

At Garneau Hall in Edmonton, community relations/sales manager Andrea Ferguson says her team decorated the front desk to look like a red brick fireplace surrounded by presents. As part of the scene, the Grinch’s hand holds a Christmas ornament counting down the number of days until Christmas. The conversation starter helps create anticipation leading up to the holidays, says Ferguson, adding the front desk is just one aspect of the team's goal to make sure there are a variety of activities engaging residents throughout the festive season.

“We have mass and holy communion on a weekly basis, live entertainment coming in every Sunday, and we’re going to have winter related sports like floor curling,” Ferguson said. “We don’t want to overwhelm our residents, but if they choose, we want to have activities to participate in.”

There's also the ‘design an ugly Christmas sweater’ event, (with a glue gun and craft materials), followed by a contest to decide whose sweater is ugliest of all. Friday movie nights will have Christmas themes through December, and there will be a Christmas tea, a dress-up Christmas dinner (with decorations and fine linens), and entertainment with dancing.

And it's not just any old dancing. A Hawaiian dance group will put on a show for Garneau Hall residents, complete with Christmas music and grass skirts. And New Year's Eve will see more live entertainment during that day's special dinner.

“We have a holiday lights tour too," Ferguson said. "Busses will pick up residents to tour Candy Cane Lane and the Legislature. Last year the holiday bus tour was so popular, they had to rent a second bus."

Another important touch through the holiday season is a craft session for residents to create handmade Christmas cards. Not all residents get to go out shopping, adds Ferguson, so it's a way they can make something personalized for family and friends.

"Some seniors don’t have a partner or family living nearby so even though it’s a happy season it can also be kind of blue," she added. "The other residents become like part of their family."

“The residents’ quality of life and happiness is our top priority. Our communities have something going on for our residents year-round," said Kendra Kozakewich, marketing manager of Christenson Communities, adding recreational teams and resident social committees plan activities to engage all residents.

Kozakewich says seasonal social and recreational activities lift everyone's spirits, and that's especially important for those that don't have family nearby, or at all. The holidays are another reason to celebrate the warmth and sense of community residents can find when they take part in activities with a friend, neighbour or table mate.

“We have a packed schedule for December, with activities ranging from Christmas tree lighting parties and carols to onsite non-denominational church services,” said Kozakewich, also pointing to bake sales, holiday socials with wine and beer tastings, Christmas crafts, wreath making, photos with Santa and holiday movie nights.