Whether it’s baking a favorite cookie recipe, hanging an extra special ornament on the tree or attending a beloved holiday attraction like Garden Glow or Winter Wonderland in Tilles Park, one of the most magical things about this time of year are those special activities that truly make the season bright. For residents of local senior living communities, there are even more ways to keep the season jolly thanks to the dedicated work and planning of staff. T&S reached out to two of those communities to learn about how they create holiday magic every December.

the gatesworth
For residents at The Gatesworth, there is no shortage of festive activities during the holidays. Executive director Carrie Montrey notes this year there will be more than 20 opportunities for residents to enjoy live entertainment in December. This includes Sunday holiday concerts, which feature performances like the Boeing Concert Band and the Shaare Emeth Youth Choir. “On Dec. 16, we will hold our Holiday Affair dinner, which is a gourmet meal with live entertainment from The Joe Dreyer Trio,” she says. “There’s also New Year’s Eve, which is our biggest part of the year with an elegant dinner, a performance by the band Fanfare, a champagne toast and, of course, a countdown.”

Montrey notes that the senior living community likes to mix classic events with new offerings to keep residents engaged. “We offer traditional celebrations like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day buffets and then throw in some fun activities, such as a performance by the Dancing Santas,” she explains. The Gatesworth also offers excursions to enjoy holiday events around St. Louis. This year includes a dinner at Prasino in St. Charles followed by a holiday light tour and a visit to the Campbell House to see the Famous Barr & Christmas in St. Louis exhibit.

Residents play an active role in helping determine the holiday offerings, providing feedback on every activity to the entertainment and event department. For Montrey the most rewarding part of the season is getting to see how the residents celebrate with each other and with their families. “I love seeing all the families together,” she says. “We provide guest rooms, and during the month, they are booked solid. Families can have breakfast, lunch and dinner with their loved one, swim in the heated indoor pool, workout in our fitness center, play pool with Grandpa, escape to the library for a quiet read or walk the grounds on a crisp, sunny day.”

friendship village chesterfield
The holiday season at Friendship Village starts with Thanksgiving celebrations. “Things unfold from there,” chaplain director Burt Campbell says. “The Christmas season really kicks off with a special lighting ceremony. It’s a celebratory moment where we turn on all the lights across the campus.” Other holiday offerings include the Holiday Ball, which gives residents the opportunity to dress up and enjoy a special dinner. Throughout the month, there is a variety of live entertainment, such as singalongs, acapella carolers and music from strolling strings groups.

Campbell notes that one of the most popular holiday events is the annual Choir Cantata, which is both performed and directed by residents. “It tends to be our biggest performance—we have to do two nights to accommodate the crowds,” he says. “It’s the culmination of a lot of the joy of the season for both those performing and the audience.” The choir is just one way residents get involved in events and activities. They are invited to share their time and talent in many ways, and there are resident committees that work more directly on planning with staff on topics like dining. “Here at Friendship Village, we want to empower our residents to remain vibrant and active through the years,” Campbell notes. “We are constantly looking for ways to get them involved.”

Friendship Village also embraces the giving spirit of the holidays by providing residents with opportunities to help others. The senior living community partners with Angel Tree, which provides gifts for children who have a parent impacted by the prison system. “It helps these children remember that they are not forgotten even when their parents are not able to purchase presents or winter outerwear for them,” Campbell says. “Our residents donate money and wrap all the gifts, and we make deliveries throughout December. During the holiday, there really is a prevailing sense of hope and joy throughout the community. It’s a place where friendship really is a way of life.”