By Debra Hasbrouck

Bringing joy to others is an important part of a meaningful holiday season. That sentiment is enhanced when we can boost the spirits of someone who might be lonely or is experiencing a difficult phase of their life. However, it’s not always easy to find the time to do something or to even know where there might be a need.

One easy place to start is with your local nursing home, senior center or skilled nursing hospital. People who live in a facility often feel out of touch with family, friends and the community – especially during the holidays. Some residents have no family members to remember them during this special time of year.

The possibilities are endless to brighten the holidays for these often forgotten members of our society. Unwrapped gifts are always welcome, especially with the tight budgets of most activity departments. Or you can arrange a facility visit with your child’s class, scout troop, music group or any organization interested in spending some time with an appreciative group of people. Not only do most residents love to have visitors, but it is an excellent opportunity for children to experience some time with the elderly and those who might have disabilities. Check with the activity director of the facility to see what their visitor policy is.


• Toiletries/Lotions (Facilities distribute toiletries, but they usually aren’t high quality and often don’t smell very appealing)

• Radios/CD Players (There are never enough to go around)

• Books and Books on CD • Music CDs

• Magazines (Consider ordering a subscription and putting a note in the current issue)

• Hand-made cards (They are priceless, and can bring a sense of home to someone who is lonely)

• Board Games, Playing Cards and Puzzle

• Books

• Robes

• Slippers (enclosed style with non-slip soles)

• Soft blankets and throws

• Hair Appointment Gift Certificates (Most facilities have a hairdresser who comes on-site. A short time in the stylist’s chair can have a dramatic impact on a person’s mood)

• Padded lap desks (especially with pockets)

• Stationary and pens

The activity department can advise you of the greatest needs at their particular facility.

If you’re interested in volunteering, check with the activity director of your local facility or center. Caring staff and residents usually develop a close bond and employees work hard to ensure all residents are well cared for, but facilities can always use volunteers throughout the year.

Whether it’s a simple gift or a bit of precious time, your thoughtfulness can bring a little joy to these special members of our community. Keep in mind that when a fragile hand reaches for a special card or gift, they will be reminded that someone cares about them.