Seasonal Depression and Senior Living
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that many people experience at the onset of winter. On average 6% of Canadians experience this type of depression, and it requires professional diagnosis and attention, especially for seniors.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
- sleeping too much
- fatigue and general malaise
- increased sensitivity to spending time alone
- loss of energy
- feelings of loneliness and sadness
As SAD symptoms continue throughout our long Canadian winters and often all the way until April, it is important to recognize them, and be proactive about treating this disorder. Senior isolation and loneliness is an increasing issue as many older adults choose to stay in their homes past retirement, and social activities which involve driving or being outside become difficult during the winter months.
SAD can appear to be a harmless and trivial issue, but studies have shown that loneliness, isolation and other persisting symptoms of SAD are actually harmful to seniors’ health. Multiple studies have suggested that feelings of loneliness have an adverse effect on seniors’ brains, hearts and other core body functions. This is why it’s important to be mindful of these symptoms and address them as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips all older adults can use to prevent SAD symptoms from intensifying. These tips can help improve overall mood and energy levels during the winter months:
Light therapy boxes can offer an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. A light therapy box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts mood levels and eases other symptoms of SAD.
Spending time with others, whether it’s having a conversation, going for a walk together or doing errands together, is a great way to bring some positivity into the cold months. Building connections with others through social activities is important, and caregivers and companions can be of great help in doing so.
Exercise is important in releasing endorphins in our bodies to lift our mood and to keep our energy levels up. For older adults, walking, gentle jogging or non-contact group sports are recommended. Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are also good exercises that can help boost mood and energy levels. Simply walking around the block and breathing fresh air can get the heart rate up, which will help fight the symptoms of SAD.
Eating well, including minimizing carbohydrates, will improve not only energy levels but can also contribute to an overall sense of balance. One of the symptoms of SAD is the craving of carbohydrates, and while a certain amount may be good for a balanced diet, too much carbohydrates can lead to feelings of sluggishness and fatigue.
Contact with others
For seniors who are spending a lot of time inside their homes, it is often difficult to form new bonds or strengthen existing ones during the winter months. Companions and caregivers who can drive older adults to social events and run errands can be a great aid in supporting those relationships. While it may seem safer to stay at home during Canada’s long winter months, it may be actually more beneficial to leave the house.
Conquering SAD requires teamwork
Dealing with symptoms of SAD and wintertime isolation isn’t a one-person job. If you see your loved ones or friends retreating, you should reach out to support and strengthen them during this time. Isolation can be especially difficult on older adults during the holidays. Seniors for Seniors is one company in Ontario that is working to provide seniors with support and companionship through age-appropriate caregivers.
During the month of December, Seniors for Seniors is offering gift certificates for their services as a special holiday gift. Your loved ones can choose what service they want, whether it is receiving some extra help getting around, cleaning the house or simply having a friendly conversation with another older adult.
Get your perfect holiday gift of companionship here: https://seniorsforseniors.ca/news/looking-for-the-perfect-gift-to-give