Retirement Homes at Christmas: Celebrating a Joyful Holiday Season

Every December, ‘tis the season for Lucas Di Giovanni to be jolly.

seniors at chartwell lansing christmas‘Tis the time for his team to don festive apparel—like the Santa hats that appear on their heads like magic. Quick as a fleet-footed reindeer, each smiling staff member at the Chartwell Lansing Retirement Residence hastens to deliver holiday cheer to delighted residents.

“The place is buzzing on Christmas,” beamed Di Giovanni, the general manager of the independent-living seniors’ community in Toronto’s multicultural Willowdale neighbourhood. “We definitely have a lot of fun here.”

Di Giovanni credited Chartwell Lansing’s intimate atmosphere for helping its residents bond over eggnog and fresh-baked shortbread. “We have only 100 suites—so give or take, I’d say 80 to 110 residents at a given time,” he said. “Everybody who lives here knows each other, all the staff know all the residents, and vice versa. We all get a chance to wish each other well.”

And they all get to behold abundant sparkly décor. Often, the well-lit spectacle starts with Hanukkah. “We have a menorah from one of our Jewish residents who every year is super-excited for us to borrow it from her,” said Di Giovanni. “It goes right on our front desk for everyone to observe and take in.”

What’s It Like in a Retirement Community During the Holiday Season?

December’s a merry month, said Di Giovanni. At Chartwell Lansing, residents decorate cookies, build gingerbread houses, enjoy musicians belting out holiday classics, or adorn themselves in hideous woolly garb for the always laugh-provoking Ugly Sweater Day.

Delicious food tempts everyone’s palate. “We certainly have some special evenings where we prepare beautiful meals,” said Di Giovanni. For example, residents look forward to the annual December holiday party, as well as mouth-watering feasts on Christmas Day.

“Will I Get to See My Family?”

If you’ll be downsizing into a retirement community, maybe you’re worried your family holiday traditions won’t survive. But as long as your family still lives nearby, you can probably see your loved ones as usual.

“A lot of people ask us,” said Di Giovanni, “‘Can my mom leave at this time, and can she return at that time, and what are the visiting hours?’” His answer? “Come and go as you please!”

“If there’s a family event happening at home that’s going to end at midnight on Christmas Eve, I would really want our residents to be present for that,” he said. “If the tradition has been to go to a resident’s daughter’s house for Christmas Day and stay there ‘til the wee hours of the morning, beautiful—that should not have to stop.”

When people transition into a retirement home, said Di Giovanni, “the holiday season doesn’t have to change at all for them.” The whole point of moving there, he said, is to open new social avenues. During the holidays, this means getting to celebrate with your family, other residents and their families, and staff.

Preserve Your Favourite Holiday Traditions

Many people hold cherished memories of long-standing family holiday rituals. For example, maybe you’ve always gathered with loved ones around the dining-room table.

According to Di Giovanni, residents can book Chartwell Lansing’s private dining room to host their own dinner parties for family or other guests. “They can either bring in their own food, or we can cater it for them,” he said. It’s a wonderful opportunity to keep family dinner traditions alive.

Create New Holiday Memories

Asset 1 Home Downsizing in TorontoWhat’s Di Giovanni’s fondest holiday memory at Chartwell Lansing? Christmas Day 2019, no doubt. “We had a choir who sang music all night long. It’s like nobody went back to their rooms after the meal. Everybody was just hanging around, loving being in each other’s presence.” As the threat of COVID-19 fades*, he’s excited at the thought of returning to group gatherings with food, music, and festivities galore.

“In retirement residences,” said Di Giovanni, “the lights are on every single day. And we are always fully staffed.” This means Chartwell Lansing employees revel alongside residents, making the season extra-joyful and memorable for everyone.

Celebrate Together … with People Like You

In a retirement home, said Di Giovanni, “you are surrounded by like-minded people your own age—peers that are in the exact same set of shoes you’re in. We celebrate the holidays together, as opposed to alone.”

“Retirement residences are safe, vibrant, exciting, fulfilling places to spend time in,” he said. That’s all the more true in December, when teams like Di Giovanni’s deck their residences’ halls with boughs of holly.

Christmas gnome chartwell lansing

* This post was published more than two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

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