car buried in snow

Winter Slumps

car buried in snow

Winter is in full effect here in the Northeast! After record snowfalls reported in the Boston area in 2015, many people are bracing themselves for the snow and cold this year. Many older adults experience symptoms of depression that are particularly debilitating during the winter months. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is affected by changing of seasons and is quite common within the senior community. Icy sidewalks and decreased daylight during the winter can make getting around especially difficult for older adults and as a result, some people become more socially isolated. As caregivers, we can help the older adults in our lives stay engaged and energized despite the cold and gloominess outside.

Letting in light
Our brains are programmed to feel sleepy when it's dark. Natural light helps us feel energized and awake. Make sure that the shades are opened throughout the house during the day to let in as much natural light as possible. If it's cloudy or dark, turn on overhead lights and lamps in the most commonly used rooms in the home. Light boxes (which can be found online) have also been proven to provide the sensation of natural light.

Vitamin D
While too much sun exposure can be harmful to our skin, we absorb vitamin D through sunlight. With less sun exposure during the winter months, many people experience vitamin D deficiencies, which can also contribute to a loss of energy. Eating foods vitamin D-rich foods is especially important during the winter months. Encourage the seniors in your life to eat vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fishes (salmon, tuna, swordfish, mackerel, etc.), hardboiled eggs, vitamin d fortified orange juice, and tofu.

Staying active and engaged
While feelings of winter hibernation are natural for most people, older adults can often become increasingly reclusive due to harsh weather conditions. Driving and walking can be quite challenging and the cold weather can cause significant joint pain. It's important to keep the older adults in our lives socially engaged. Visit with your older friends and family on a regular basis. Ask them to join you to go for a walk around a mall or to get coffee or tea at a local coffee shop. Offer to take them out to a museum or see if there are any events happening at local libraries. Many older adults enjoy reading, especially during winter months. A great way to stay socially engaged is by joining a book club. Check with local libraries, bookstores, and meetups to see if there are any book clubs in their neighborhood and offer to bring them, or create your own!