During the long winter months, it is not uncommon for seniors to experience the winter blues. As the outdoor temperatures fall and the days grow shorter, many older adults spend more time cooped up indoors. Since older adults may be less mobile, less active and less capable of doing things on their own, they can be vulnerable to feelings of depression during this time.
In fact, those winter blues may actually be a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, characterized by a period of depression that recurs each year, most commonly during the fall and winter months. Symptoms may include a depressed or irritable mood, feelings of sadness, anxiety, loss of appetite, fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities.
Fortunately, there are ways for seniors, and their caregivers, to ward off the emotional effects brought on by the cold winter months. Whether you are a senior or a caregiver, these tips can help you beat the winter blues.
- Spend time outdoors. When the weather permits, bundle up and go outside for some fresh air and natural light. The change of senery and environment will also help to stave off cabin fever.
- Make exercise a priority. If you aren’t able to exercise outdoors, there are still plenty of ways to stay moving. Find a walking group at your mall, sign up for a dance class or participate in water aerobics at a local senior center or YMCA. If you’re a Highmark Medicare Advantage member, take advantage of the complimentary SilverSneakers Fitness Program membership to use at any of thousands of participating locations across the country. To learn more about SilverSneakers, visit www.silversneakers.com or call the number on the back of your Highmark member ID card.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Your diet can have a big impact on your mood, so it’s important that you make healthy food choices. While colder temperatures may cause you to crave comfort food, such as sweets and carbohydrates, make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, protein and complex carbohydrates.
- Spend time with friends and family. Staying connected to friends and family will not only help the winter season pass by more quickly, but it is also a great way to bolster your spirits during the dark days of winter.
If you’re struggling to beat the winter blues, make an appointment with your doctor. Together, you can determine whether you may be experiencing a more serious type of depression and discuss the best treatment options for you.
Written by Dr. Marylou Buyse, Senior Medical Director of Senior Markets for Highmark, Inc.
Taken from the Western Pennsylvania “Guide to Good Health”