One of the best parts of the holiday season is gathering together with friends and family. For those who have recently downsized to senior living, “gathering together” may be a lot more difficult this year, says Rachel Henderson, Director of Community Relations at The Terraces at Bonita Springs, the only Life Plan Community for senior living in the Bonita Springs area.

“With cases of COVID-19 continuing to spike across the country, we are strongly encouraging caution when it comes to holiday gatherings,” Rachel says. “At our community, we are limiting entrance, and our residents are advised not to leave unless absolutely necessary. We will still continue to have holiday gatherings, but we will have social distancing procedures in place.”

That being said, there are still many opportunities to host holiday gatherings and enjoy time spent with friends and family. If you or a senior loved one are wondering how to host a holiday gathering after downsizing to senior living, here are some tips to help make your holidays happy … and healthy.

  1. Keep it small.

Downsizing, by its very nature, means that you don’t have as much space as you may have had previously. If you plan on hosting a holiday gathering, you may need to shorten your guest list – or, conversely, hold several different gatherings for different groups throughout the holiday season. If having a large gathering is a must for your family, consider having the party at someone else’s house. Or you can see if your senior living community has a common room that you can rent out to hold your party.

  1. Don’t worry about dishes.

Even if you’ve been in your new home for a while, throwing a party can be a lot of work. This is particularly true if you gave away all your extra place settings. Instead of trying to recreate the holidays in the past, make it easy on yourself. Use paper plates and single-use flatware so that cleanup doesn’t require you to stuff the dishwasher or hand-wash until the wee hours of the morning.

  1. Ask for help.

Even if you love cooking for the holidays, there’s no reason you should have to do it all. In fact, you might not be able to if your kitchen is significantly smaller than it was in the past. Instead of trying to make all the trimmings yourself, ask your guests to bring part of the meal. It means less work for you and more time to spend socializing with guests. Another option is to have your holiday meal catered in, meaning even less work!

  1. Simplify your food.

Traditional holiday meals pull out all the stops – turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes and many, many other dishes. This year, why not start a new tradition of a simpler yet enjoyable meal? Consider having heavy appetizers in lieu of an actual meal, or greatly simplify what options you have available. Depending on how large your gathering will be, consider cooking a small turkey breast in lieu of a full-on roast turkey with all the trimmings. For side dishes, you could consider picking up premade items from the grocery store – don’t worry, we won’t tell a soul. Or you could completely break from tradition and order pizza. It’s up to you – remember, the most important thing is spending time together, not necessarily what’s on your plate.

  1. Downsize the decor.

As much fun as it is to go all out and deck the halls, your new small space probably will fill up quickly if you pack it with traditional decor. Instead, go for minimal but striking touches. For example, you can transform your fireplace mantel into the holiday focal point and put color-coordinated pillows and rugs down for a streamlined yet holly-jolly look. Consider packing a small box of decor that you can easily find when you move into your new place (if you’re still in the process of moving). That way, you can be sure to have the most meaningful and memorable pieces in place for your gathering.

  1. Consider an open house.

Holding an open house rather than a traditional holiday meal makes it easier for people to come and go – and can also help keep your home from getting overcrowded. If you really want to organize the comings and goings, you can invite different groups over at different times. This can allow for crowd control and also allows you to replenish drinks and food at a reasonable rate if necessary.

  1. Make it easy to follow safety procedures.

COVID-19 has added many considerations to peoples’ holiday gatherings. It’s much easier to follow safety rules when measures are in place. Here are some general guidelines to follow whether you’re attending a party or hosting one in your new home.

  • Remind guests to stay home if they are sick. If anyone on the guest list has been exposed to COVID-19 or shown symptoms in the previous 14 days, encourage them to stay at home or join in the party through virtual means.
  • Make sure there are plenty of opportunities to wash or sanitize hands. Consider putting hand sanitizer at everyone’s seat as a sort of “party favor.”
  • Throughout the gathering, make sure that you’re disinfecting high-touch areas like doorknobs, garbage-can lids, countertops, light switches, etc.
  1. When in doubt, Zoom it out.

It’s possible that you or your loved ones may not feel comfortable about gathering this holiday season, and that’s okay. Instead of getting together in person, take advantage of the plethora of video chat services available these days. Zoom announced that on Thanksgiving Day, they will temporarily be lifting the 40-minute limit for free calls so that families can enjoy the holidays together in spirit, if not in person.

“The 2020 holidays will be different – there is no doubt,” says Rachel. “However, with precautions and planning, there are still ways for all of us to celebrate with the people we love.”

About The Terraces at Bonita Springs

Recreation, special events, holiday celebrations, educational programs, guest speakers, and a variety of inspiring activities take place throughout the year at The Terraces at Bonita Springs as part of the community’s active lifestyle programs. The Terraces is the only Life Plan Community for senior living in the Bonita Springs area. Living choices include independent living, assisted living, memory support, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. All levels of care, including assisted living, skilled nursing and memory support, are open for direct admittance with no entrance fee.

For more information, visit TheTerracesAtBonitaSprings.com or call 239-221-8907.

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