Halloween is all about imagination: it’s about hearing a howling rustle of wind and thinking it’s a monster, or seeing some uncut cloth and pondering yourself into a princess. It’s about imagining skeletons dancing around and playing each other like xylophones. It’s the spooky symphony of our mind. But for some reason, we’ve decided that older adults should stop being imaginative. It’s assumed, incorrectly, that the most imaginative holiday of all should be a thing of the past once you reach a certain age.
And that’s nonsense.
But, if you have an older adult in your life, how can you get them to be part of the season when society has just kind of assumed they shouldn’t be there? While the Bay Area may not have a classic leaf-turning, Great Pumpkin-style fall, we still celebrate the holiday in style—and host plenty of senior-friendly activities. From local events and readings to movie-watching parties and costumes, Halloween can be a great way for older adults to show that the power of imagination—and the joy of creativity—don’t respect artificial age boundaries.
Under a Harvest Moon: Pumpkin Patches and Fall Fests
What’s Halloween without turning a simple gourd into an image of ghoulish fun? There’s very little that signals the season more than pumpkin picking and carving, and it can start with the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Fest.
Oct 15th and 16th, in the town of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, the Pumpkin Fest is a celebration of all things fall. Giant pumpkins, music, pie eating fests, a grand parade, and hay bales make it a taste of the country right here in the Bay Area. It’s a classic fest, with years of history and culture behind it. Fun for any age, it’s a great way to kick off the season—and it’s easily accessible by the Sam Trans train line.
Need more of a pumpkin fix? There are pumpkin patches throughout the entire Bay Area. In San Francisco, Clancy’s Trees on 7th has a huge variety of pumpkins, as well as a corn maze and hayride in the middle of the city!
And, in the North Bay, Petaluma Pumpkins has one of the region’s best corn mazes, which are fun no matter your age (especially because you can’t really be lost). Also on the list of the Bay Area’s best pumpkin patches are Perry Family Farms in Fremont and Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch. Or, take an older adult in your life to a corn maze—the adventure will offer important physical exercise, as well as a fun mental workout—and the fresh autumn air is a great bonus.
A Haunted Bay: Enjoying The Spookiest and Most Interesting Cultural Events
Here are a few fun cultural events that’ll get everyone thinking about Halloween.
- The Bay Area Science Fest and Halloween Bash. The great thing about science is that it, like Halloween, is essentially an act of the imagination. At the Bay Area Science Fest, they combine discovery with haunts, as students from around the area create spooky toys, games, and Rube Goldberg devices. It’s a great way for older adults to get out in the community, to engage in important socialization, and to see what younger people are up to these days.
- The Winchester Mystery House. One of the most “haunted” locations in the Bay Area, the Winchester Mansion has a full array of activities this Halloween season. Weird corners, secret passageways, bizarre stairs: it’s a chance to look at the strange Victorian creation of Sarah Winchester in the proper season. Older adults will love the history—and the mystery. Chances are this was part of the local lore when they were growing up. And who doesn’t like to hear about outlandish people creating monuments to their eccentricity?
- Dios de los Muertos Fest. In San Jose every year, one of the nation’s largest festivals celebrating Dia de los Muertos invites people of all ages and backgrounds to join in. Take place in a cultural heritage event that combines history, religion, and a festival-like atmosphere. This is a wonderful time for any older adult to enjoy the rich mysteries of life.
Be Who You Want: Costume Ideas For Older Adults
Every town in the area has their own Halloween fest or fair, and lots of groups for older adults host their own Halloween parties, as they should. Halloween belongs to everyone. But make sure your loved one isn’t the only person without a costume. There is no reason why seniors can’t take part in the imaginative life of the holiday. Here are a few ideas for great costumes for older adults.
- Popeye. The hat. The muscles. The spinach. The pipe. It’s an easy and fun look to pull off.
- Classic bands. We’ve seen pictures of groups of older adults posing as the Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s. Those are great, lively costumes, and are reminiscent of those amazing nights now 50 years in the past.
- A recreation of childhood joy. A pirate, a clown, a monster: there’s nothing wrong with the classics. Encourage the older adult in your life to remember their favorite costume growing up and try to recreate it.
- Anything. Absolutely anything your loved one wants to dream up.
That’s right, anything. That’s the point. It isn’t just for young people to have fun, dress goofily, scarily, or sexily. Halloween is for everyone, and seniors should celebrate it as they choose. Don’t let anyone pretend that they don’t have the right to use their imagination anymore.
Autumn, when colder winds start reminding us that leaves are going to change, is the best time to remember that a person is always who they are. Remind your aging loved one that they should enjoy the season however they see fit. If they want to see skeletons dance around in shadows, that isn’t foolish. It is just simply and wonderfully, childish. That’s what Halloween is for. It’s about letting the child inside come out for some candy—or to scream in delighted terror. There’s no age limit to that treat.
At Institute on Aging, we know that you are still you, and are always you. We encourage older adults, and their loved ones, to celebrate aging as a time of exploration and independence. Connect with us today to learn more about our programs.