When Jerry Kiesling moved away from family several years ago in the last weeks of the year, he wasn’t yet connected to a new community as the December holidays approached. Searching for the spirit of the season while shopping for gifts in his new surroundings, he happened upon the local senior center gift shop’s festive holiday open house. While deciding which baked treats to enjoy while browsing, Kiesling spotted lep cookies, a traditional German holiday treat. Surprised, he asked who made them and was quickly introduced to the cookies’ 80-something baker. She not only shared Kiesling’s cultural cookie tradition, but she was also from his hometown, too. Their conversation was just what he needed.
“A lep cookie was all it took to take me home for the holidays,‘’ says Kiesling, a therapist who specializes in working with older adults.
What Is “Home,” Anyway?
Feeling that sense of “home” is an important part of the holidays for many. “Being home for the holidays is almost ritualistic—it seems like the climax of our needs as social beings,” says Nancy Mitchell, a registered geriatric nurse who writes for AssistedLivingCenter.com.
But home often evolves over time, as retirees who have moved away from what they thought of as the family nest can attest. And, as Kiesling discovered, “home” doesn’t have to be a place. It’s often a feeling of belonging, comfort, control, and familiarity, adds Mitchell. “Home is a representation of who we are or, at least, who we remember being. For retirees, it’s the nostalgia that drives them to stay rooted to their sense of home,” she says.
While Barbara Becker appreciates the tangibles she associates with home for the holidays—a holiday wreath and welcome mat at the front door, for example—she says that a sense of home comes from more than things. “It’s actually the intangibles of life—our memories, our sense of gratitude, the love we’ve shared with people here and departed—that make up our truest sense of home,” says the author of “Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind.” That feeling of home for the holidays, she adds, comes from our connection to something larger than ourselves, whether that’s a belief, family, or even nature.
Kiesling agrees, adding, “The significance of traditions, connections to others, and connection to our memories give meaning to this time of year.”
Whether friends and family are near or far during the holiday season, and even if you’ve long since stopped competing with Clark Griswold’s outdoor lights, you can still capture that home for the holidays feelings. Here are four ways to do it.
This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. For more information about whether a reverse mortgage may be right for you, you should consult an independent financial advisor. For tax advice, please consult a tax professional.