Thanksgiving is typically considered the holiday that focuses most on practicing thankfulness. Here are some simple and impactful ideas to begin practicing thankfulness with your senior residents both in November and throughout the year.
Create a Gratitude Tree:
The whole point of Thanksgiving is to consider and share what you’re most thankful for. You can start that part of the celebration anytime, by setting up a gratitude tree in one of your community’s shared spaces. Here’s how to do it.
- Find any kind of tree (real or artificial) or bare branch that can be secured in a large pot. Even a Christmas tree would work.
- Provide colorful blank paper or note cards, pens, and stickers next to the tree.
- Or create a standard note that can be photocopied.
- Include lines for: From: name, and space to write – I’m thankful for…, because…
- Provide clothes pins or large paper clips to attach the notes to the branches.
- Leave signs next to the tree and around the facility. Invite residents, visitors, family members, staff and friends to write and hang notes on the tree that say what (or who) they’re thankful for.
- Invitations to participate can even be sent to family and friends that can’t make it on site, then returned by mail or email, and hung on the tree.
- Make sure there’s at least one gratitude note about each resident. Staff can write notes for those who may not have one written about them.
- On Thanksgiving Day, you can ask each resident to take a note from the tree and read it to the whole group.
- Or have a staff member, friend or family member read them aloud throughout the holiday meal.
- Imagine the joy for someone to hear from someone else why they’re appreciated.
Write Thank You Letters or Make Calls:
Sometimes we forget to communicate our thankfulness with people that are closest to us, or maybe we were just never taught how to express our gratitude to others.
- Spend time this month encouraging your seniors to write a note to those that they’re thankful for.
- It could be someone they see often, or someone they haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe it’s a spouse, child, grandchild or even a staff member.
- In this age of technology, a hand-written note is rare, so merely the gift of writing will be precious to those that receive it.
- Consider using special papers with fall colors, stickers, stamps or lovely colored pens for writing.
- This extra reminder is sure to be a cherished gift for the people in their lives.
- Even if a resident has difficulty with penmanship, they can share their thoughts with another person and ask them to write the note for them.
- Better yet, help them take the time to pick up the phone and call their loved one to express their gratitude.
Help Residents Begin a Gratitude Journal:
- Sometimes as we get older, our life begins to include more challenges than when we were young. This can make it harder to be positive and practice thankfulness.
- After your seniors have taken the time to write down positive thoughts and reasons to be thankful, encourage them to begin keeping a journal of those thoughts.
- While they’re putting the pen to paper, they have no choice but to consciously think about the people and things they’re thankful for, without dwelling on distracting and ungrateful thoughts.
- Encourage seniors to make a goal to journal every day for gratitude practice. This can be a wonderful gift for themselves and those who will inherit their journal.
- Have residents come back to read their journal on a regular basis. This can be a welcome reminder of the positives in their lives, especially when things are frustrating or seem gloomy.
Enjoy Your Favorite Thanksgiving-themed Movies:
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – While this is a movie made with kids in mind, it’s still a good Thanksgiving movie for people of all ages. Consider inviting grandchildren to enjoy the movie too.
- Grumpy Old Men – This light-hearted comedy stars Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann Margaret and includes a scene that takes place over Thanksgiving dinner.
- Home for the Holidays – this film shares a Thanksgiving experience that offers plenty of comedic fodder: spending time with family. Holly Hunter stars in the movie about a woman facing the mix of kooky personalities around the table when she heads home for Thanksgiving.
These simple activities can happen any time of year, but Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time for practicing thankfulness with senior residents.
Do you have activities that have been successful at your facility in the past? Or maybe some that didn’t turn out as planned? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.