Can you be 'Santa to a Senior' on the South Shore this year? Easy to do digitally.

NORWELL – A heart-warming program that helps overlooked seniors feel a part of the holiday season is coming down the chimney in a new style this year: with a big virtual assist from Santa's helpers.

Be a Santa to a Senior runs through Friday, Dec. 10, so you have just a few days to help.

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Be a Senior to a Santa started 16 years ago, when shoppers at the Hanover Mall were invited to stop at a tree with paper ornaments and pick out one with a local senior's first name.

Each ornament listed two items the senior would like for Christmas such as slippers, a robe, candy, bath towels and sweaters. Many seniors had few or no nearby family members and were likely to be alone on Christmas.

Home Instead, a senior care center in Norwell, launched the program in 2005. By 2007, 350 seniors were receiving the surprise gifts. Shoppers would select an ornament, buy the requested gifts within a week or so and bring them back to the mall. South Shore Elder Services in Braintree would pick up the gifts, wrap them and deliver them to the seniors right before the holidays.

Diane Sargent, of Weymouth, who then worked at South Shore Elder Services, described how some elders were so appreciative they were moved to tears. Shoppers said it made them happy "to help Santa," and some recalled their own family members no longer with them.

Two years ago, however, the Hanover Mall closed for renovations and last year the lockdown of the pandemic blocked Be a Santa to a Senior from continuing. So, Home Instead in Norwell arranged for a few presents for clients it knew needed something particular. One of those was Richard Royal, 73, who is disabled and lives in Norwell Housing Authority's elderly housing.

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"It was a godsend," Royal said about the microwave oven he received. He had stopped going grocery shopping after falling several times while carrying his groceries, and uses the oven to heat his Meals on Wheels.

Reviving the beloved tradition

This year, Be a Santa to a Senior is back. Todd Anderson, of Hingham, who has owned the Home Instead franchise for five years, is asking people to do their senior shopping online.

Can you be 'Santa to a Senior' on the South Shore this year? Easy to do digitally.

Instead of picking an ornament off a tree, shoppers can visit the Home Instead website, select the name of a client at South Shore Elder Services and then move on to a special business account to purchase one or both gifts. The prices are mostly in the $20 to $30 range.

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The gifts will all be shipped to Home Instead, which will wrap and deliver them to 75 seniors.

To help, visit the Home Instead in Norwell website. Click on Be a Santa to a Senior, then click on Buy Online to open an Amazon wish list to see names and gifts requested. If you click on Donna, for example, you see that she has asked for women's quilted terry clog slippers and the large-print book "Women of Troublesome Creek." You pick an item, add it to your cart, and proceed to checkout. Bobby A. is asking for a book of 20 Forever Stamps and jersey knit extended size sleep pants.

A personalized greeting can be included with the gift.

This is fun to do if you just follow the clicks. Anderson hopes to expand it next year.

For more information, call Home Instead in Norwell at 781-878-2994.

Watch a 2007 video about the program at the Hanover Mall.

What's a good gift to give to a senior?

If you are looking for ideas on what to give a senior this season, Home Instead has five helpful suggestions:

Cooking Christmas dinner

Hingham Senior Center is reviving Joyce Bethoney's in-person Joyful Kitchen cooking class Thursday, Dec. 16, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm. New, post-COVID guidelines will preserve both hands-on teaching and everyone sharing the delicious meal together.

This holiday special class will feature chateaubriand (center cut of fillet mignon), roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and mushroom gravy. The fee is $25 and includes a two-hour class, the "five star meal" and lots of camaraderie. You can register in person at the senior center or online.

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Joyce explains: "Participants will be seated in the dining room, recipe in hand, and on a large-screen TV, see me prepare the recipe in the kitchen. We’ll still be able to communicate to answer any questions, share ideas and any cooking tips. I’m also planning a surprise take-home dessert."

Contact Sue Scheible at

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