How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Seniors During COVID-19

Make the holiday as warm and special as possible despite the pandemic.

The holiday season always brings nostalgia, drawing forth memories of years past. In 2020, that feeling is especially poignant, as many of us can’t be with our families this year. Celebrating Thanksgiving with people outside of your household can pose a serious risk. That’s why it’s important to go the extra mile to make the holiday special despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your older parent or grandparent already lives with you, then limit Thanksgiving to just the people in your own household. This isn’t the year to invite out-of-state relatives to gather for a big family meal. For seniors who live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or independently, consider these ideas for how to celebrate Thanksgiving as safely as possible.

Have a virtual Thanksgiving

Gather virtually with friends and family across the country without leaving your home. Tell family stories and ask your parent or grandparent to tell you about their past. Eat dinner together from your own homes or gather afterward to share what’s happening in your life and reminisce about the past.

Play games

To liven things up, play games as a family. Many games are easy to play virtually, like bingo, Zoom Pictionary, or “name that tune.” Here’s a list of 12 board games you can play online. You could even increase the silliness factor by doing karaoke or hosting a family talent show! You’ll be creating laughter-filled memories of how you made the best of a tough situation as a family.

Consider an outdoor gathering

If you live in a warm enough location, you might consider having dinner or dessert outside while still maintaining a physical distance. Instead of one table, you might use several small tables spaced apart from one another.

Here are some ways to stay toasty despite the chill in the air:

  • Use outdoor patio heaters to add warmth to the space.
  • Serve warm drinks like hot apple cider.
  • Eat during the sunniest part of the afternoon.
  • Bring out wool blankets to drape over your laps and around your shoulders.
  • Fill hot water bottles to hold on your laps to stay warm.

With a little ingenuity, you can make an outdoor Thanksgiving work—as long as you’re not dealing with severe winds or snow!

Watch a movie together

If you can’t be physically together, watch a movie at the same time from your different homes. Let your senior relative choose one of their favorite films so you can all experience it together as a family. Talk via text about your favorite parts or keep your phone on speaker so you can talk during the film.

You’d undoubtedly rather be sharing space together as a family, but these alternatives will still make the day feel joyful and show how much you care. Be sure to ask your senior relative if they have any ideas of their own, too!


CDC, “COVID-19: Holiday Celebrations”

Ryedale Mumbler, “COVID 19: 10 Ideas of Easy Games You Can Play Virtually with Family & Friends”

Smithsonian, “Twelve Board Games You Can Play with Friends from Afar”

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