How to support an elderly person on Valentine's Day

Valentine's may be difficult for an older person for many reasons. For those who live alone or far away from family, Valentine's day could bring up feelings of isolation and loneliness. Some may have lost their spouse, and find it to be a painful reminder that their loved one is gone. Or, they may have never married, and feel grief for a part of life they didn't get to experience.

Understanding loss in later life
According to research, Women are almost twice as likely to experience loss than men. This is because on average, women's life expectancy is longer, and there is a greater chance that a woman will be younger than her husband. 5% of men and 14% of women between the ages of 65-69 are widowed. This increases to 36% of men and 77% of women for those over 85 years old.

However, while we usually think of romance on Valentine's day, it's not just a day for couples. Originally it marked an annual feast in celebration of St. Valentine - a martyred Roman Saint from the 3rd-century. Over time, Valentine's Day has become a day to celebrate all forms of friendship and affection - from family and friends, to neighbours and pets.

If you're supporting someone on Valentine's day this year, we've shared ideas for how to celebrate, and advice on how to help those who may find the day tough.

Have a discussion with those closest
If you're worried about how an older person will feel on Valentine's day, or are unsure if planning something on the day could bring up painful emotions, it can really help to talk it out with the wider family.

Likewise, if you're a carer, don't be afraid to ask the family about the best way to spend the day. They may have some traditions such as lighting a candle or laying flowers, and will be able to let you know if there is anything you should be aware of that could cause distress.

Remember, on the flip side, an older person may not want to mark the day at all, and may consider it the same as any other day.

Encourage 'self-care'
Grief and loneliness doesn't just have an impact on how we feel mentally - it can take its toll on us physically too. Older people experiencing negative emotions can become exhausted, lose their appetite, and lack the motivation to get out and about.

This Valentine's day could be an opportunity to encourage an older person to put themselves first. This could mean setting some time aside for you both to do something they enjoy, such as -

Going to a bookshop to pick a new book
Ordering their favourite takeaway meal or going to a much loved restaurant or pub,
Booking a blow dry at their hairdressers, or a shave or trim as the barbers
Having an aromatherapy session
Sketching or painting
Relaxing with some calming music