The Christmas competition combating elderly isolation and loneliness

Aged care residents across New Zealand got out their Christmas lights and decorating skills during an organisation-wide Christmas Decorating Competition.

The annual Christmas Decorating Competition, held by Bupa, one of New Zealand’s largest aged care providers, not only shares the festive spirit but also helps combat elderly isolation and feelings of loneliness over the Christmas period.

Bupa residents, employees, families and the community, have joined forces at Bupa care homes and retirement villages to share the spirit of Christmas through friendship and connection.

Research shows that isolation amongst the elderly is an important social issue around the world, and especially prevalent at this time of year. A world-first study by Otago University recently found that one in five older people are lonely, and the negative impact loneliness can have on a person's health is well documented.

“Bupa facilities across New Zealand have been holding some great Christmas celebrations and creating special memories,” said Jan Adams, Bupa Villages and Aged Care A&NZ Managing Director.

“At this time of year, residents can feel more isolated than usual and it’s important to keep people connected.”

The Christmas Decorating Competition promotes ways of sharing with others. Entries included a variety of activities from raising money for local charities, to singing with residents, creating hand-made decorations and participating in parades.

Connecting young and old

As part of this year’s competition, Bupa Cedar Manor in Tauranga shared the spirit of Christmas with residents and the community.

“We decided to have local pre-school kids visit Cedar Manor to decorate the Christmas tree with residents,” said Bupa Cedar Manor Administrator, Jane Verry.

“Kids were singing as they decorated the Christmas tree. It brought so much excitement to children and residents.

“After the Christmas tree decorating, we had a visit from Santa who was one of our staff. We had gifts for each child and a basket of fruits to take back to school with a thank you card from residents,” Verry said.

Residents felt the spirit of Christmas with the children around them and we have learnt through this experience that Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of receiving.
Jane Verry, Bupa Cedar Manor Administrator

Connecting Aged Care residents with the community

For the last four years, Bupa Stokeswood in Lower Hutt have entered their local Christmas parade. This year they entered with their MGT sports car and the Bupa Van covered in tinsel complete with residents in Santa hats.

“Our residents really loved the outing,” Bupa Stokeswood Unit Coordinator Emma Taylor said.

The residents enjoyed the public’s response too. “When they see our van with our residents inside, they had lots of smiles,” Taylor said.

Re-creating Christmas memories

Located in the large rural farming community of Pahiatua, Bupa Waireka celebrated Christmas Kiwi style and with their own Kiwiana tree.

“The Waireka Kiwiana Christmas tree has sparked a lot of interest as well as created many conversations, with residents, family members and our people,” said Bupa Waireka Administrator Michelle Bourke.

“The tree was assembled and left undecorated. We talked to the residents, their families and our people about what their ideas and memories were of a Kiwiana Christmas or what they thought was traditional to New Zealand. We had a really positive response and many ideas – ranging from Jandals to Marmite, the good old Swanndri and the Tiki.

“We did our best to incorporate these memories ideas into decorating the Christmas tree,” Bourke said.

“This tree has created stories and memories that have been shared with residents, whanau and staff. It has brought families together as they remember past Christmases. It has been wonderful to hear the stories they have shared with us.”

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