Memories—The Most Precious Christmas Gift Ever!


By Pam Atkinson M.S. , Elm Haven Place

The angst over Christmas shopping is already all over social media. Threatened shortages are looming already. What are we to do? Let me ask you this. What gifts do you remember? There may be one or two very notable gifts, but if I ask about events or traditions, you likely have a treasure trove of items to choose from. 

Several years ago, my mother-in-law asked for experiences rather than gifts. We honored that request even though we spent more time on the road than the actual “adventure,” but it was priceless time together that she spoke of often. A month after that trip, she was diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and passed away two months later. She never stopped talking about these adventures we took her on. 

If you have kids or grandkids, it may be difficult to judge the excitement they will feel on an adventure with you when they were expecting another toy, but remember, that excitement will be deferred until the experience. Adventures can include:

  • A trip to the zoo, museum, or play park.
  • A year’s family pass to their favorite place. Often museum memberships come with reciprocal memberships to other museums in other areas.
  • Indoor play parks or water parks. 
  • Make a video of you reading a child’s favorite bedtime or any story. It’s easy to do on a phone.
  • Spend a day with family and friends making a special family dish and passing along the tradition. 

So, you have loved ones in an assisted living or nursing home? There are still experiences that you can bring to them if that’s necessary. 

  • Make sure to get them out of their rooms, even for a few minutes. Ask about their childhood snow day memories. Try to recreate some of those childhood memories of snowball fights and snow angels. Be sure to take lots of pictures so these happy memories can be relived.
  • Kids often don’t like visiting nursing homes. To make it a more enjoyable experience, bring games and toys for everyone to enjoy. Play Doh, coloring books (adult coloring books, too), card/dice games, Jenga, or jigsaw puzzles. The point is to make each visit more about an experience that will be enjoyed and talked about rather than an obligation to sit and visit. 
  • Does someone in the family have a craft or hobby they enjoy? Have a day of crafting and share those gifts. Be sure to bring all supplies with you and take everything home when you are finished. 
  • Do a little Christmas caroling in the hallways. Share your experience with others. 

Make sure that everyone participates. We laugh the most when attempts at an activity go awry. When Grandma makes something slightly naughty out of Play Doh or Uncle Joe is holding half the deck of Uno cards.

Make new Christmas traditions for you and your family. I have seen on social media a great game with a wrapped gift as the prize and oven mitts and dice. Everyone gathers around the table and one person rolls the dice aiming for doubles. While that person is rolling, the person to their right is trying to open the gift with oven mitts on. As soon as the person rolls doubles, the entire game shifts to the left and the person formally rolling the dice is now attempting to open the gift. 

The best gifts in life will never be found under the Christmas tree! Those gifts are friends, family, kids, and the one you love. Have a fabulous Holiday this year!

Pam Atkinson M.S. is the Onsite Community Director at Elm Haven Place. To schedule a personal tour call her at 309-338-9337.


For additional informative and inspirational articles visit 50 Plus News and Views Greater Peoria Area online edition today.

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