In senior residences around the region, animated holiday chatter around the dinner table centres on gifts, phone calls and surprise visits.
It’s critical that even those alone or suffering dementia receive a gift for Christmas, a reminder they’re a valued person in our society, says Peggy Hancyk, head elf for the Be a Santa to a Senior program.
Whether it’s adaptable clothing, comfy pyjamas or a stuffed puppy, the act of opening a gift changes perspective. It reminds them someone cares, and that person still holds value.
“It’s just the fact they get something,” said Hancyk, on loan from her usual role handling community relations for Victoria Home Instead Senior Care.
“I wish each person who has bought a gift for a senior/disabled could be with them when they receive the Christmas gift,” one social worker wrote to Hancyk.
“Some people show their surprise and happiness at getting the gift; others are quiet and thoughtful. For the caregiver and the senior it is a lift in an otherwise very bleak and often painful world. A gift or more the act of giving can renew the disabled person’s faith in human nature that there are people out in the wide world who still care for the elderly/disabled without even knowing them. The gift is so much more than the physical thing inside the pretty wrapping; it says so much more to the person. It can bring back happy memories of better times – maybe when they were younger – and times when family cared for them.”
Now in its ninth year, Be a Santa to a Senior program delivers secret-Santa gifts and companionship for lonely and isolated seniors during the holidays.
The public picked ornaments from trees scattered across the region late last month and fulfilled some Christmas wishes that will be delivered in coming days.
Classes from Cedar Hill middle and St. Patrick’s elementary schools decorate gift bags and Shannon Oaks residents, along with volunteers from Marrion Village, host a wrapping frenzy.
“It’s growing and growing. We have about 600 people this year,” said Hancyk. “The number of people who want to give, exceeds by far, the number of people I have to give to. The gifts are well thought out and generous.”