Warding off the Winter Blues

10 Ideas to Help Seniors with Seasonal Depression

By Colleen Harvot, Valley VNA Director of In-Home Care

The winter blues can strike a person of any age, but there are four reasons seniors are a bit more susceptible to feeling depressed during the long, cold winter:

  • Worries over heating bills, timely snow removal, or other logistical challenges that may become bigger issues if a person is left alone to fret about them;
  • Poor nutrition that can contribute to feelings of lethargy and disinterest;
  • Lack of sunlight, which not only affects one’s energy level, but also contributes to a vitamin D deficiency, a vital nutrient that helps boost mental health and prevent osteoporosis;
  • Anxiety over leaving home because of fear of falling on the ice, poor driving conditions, or extremely chilly temperatures;

We all know that feeling of slipping into a funk, battling the blues, or feeling alone in our anxiety Hopefully we can also remember what puts the spring back in our step (that is, beside springtime!).  Here are some suggestions for you and your loved one that will help you find more contentment this winter:

Find assistance:  Wisconsin utilities have programs to assist homeowners with their utility expenses according to income and other guidelines. To ease anxiety over high heating bills, check to see if your loved one is eligible for financial assistance.

Meals: Whether its meals delivered to your door via Meals on Wheels  or breakfast at the local senior center or dining room, eating together is uplifting for two reasons: good food and good company.

Bring Books: Consider a personal bookmobile service where you visit every couple of weeks to switch out reading and listening materials from the public library. Your visits will have built in-conversation topics—What have you read? What would you like to try next?

Consult a Doctor: Antidepressants may be just what the doctor ordered to help lift the gloom. Another remedy may be light therapy, which involves an affected person sitting next to a specialized light box for a certain amount of time each day. The light box mimics sunlight and helps improve mood and sleep cycles. Don’t forget to ask about vitamin D levels and supplements, if needed.

Move More: Exercise and social activities for older adults at places like the YMCA boost endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones. Let’s face it, the whole world looks better after water aerobics and a hot shower.

Savor the Sound of Music:  Specialized groups for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s like Lyrics & Laughter at Valley VNA, help seniors connect memories with music. If you’re more of a concert person, see live music at the Neenah Public Library on Friday afternoons—for free!

Pamper Yourself: Foot care clinics at Valley VNA include a foot soak, nail trim, and always a little lively banter. Check the schedule and call for an appointment. Did we mention that there are usually cookies, too?

Offer a Ride: Seniors who can count on a weekly salon appointment and/or church attendance have a bright spot at the end of their week. If you can offer a safe ride, eliminating worries about slipping on snow and ice, you’ll be an added blessing.

Write a Letter: No one ever tires of receiving a letter in the old fashioned USPS. Write about fond memories, what the kids are doing these days, recent outings you’ve enjoyed, and how work is going for you. Print photos from your computer and add them to your envelope. (No need to worry about special photo paper.) You don’t have to live far away to send a note. Write on!

Buy a Bird Feeder: Any time spent observing nature reminds us that we are not alone on this journey. So many creatures are busy and purposeful.  Choose a feeder and seeds to attract colorful birds near the window and glory in the beauty in your own backyard.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned visit to lift the spirits of an elderly person—and our staff! We hope you’ll visit soon and come back often. To learn more about our varied life enrichment programs at Valley VNA, or to volunteer to share your talents in the life enrichment department, please call (920) 727-5555.

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