When the days become short and the air grows colder, an estimated ten million Americans suffer from what is known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The reduced sunlight in winter can disrupt our internal clocks and circadian rhythm, leading to fatigue, sadness, and difficulty concentrating. For many seniors, especially ones living on their own, the winter months can bring about a lesser form of SAD, known colloquially as the winter blues.
Depression and anxiety are made worse by isolation and loneliness, which is of particular interest to seniors as half of all people above the age of 60 are at risk for social isolation, and one third of adults that age will experience loneliness. Depression and anxiety are not unusual feelings to have, and are often triggered by life events such as grief.
It’s important to stay active and connected with the people and the world around you. While bad weather may make an easy excuse for staying in and alone, there are other ways of keeping busy.
Taking classes or joining a religious community can help you stay engaged and fight off the winter blues. Participating in activities is very important. If you’re worried about transportation, look into options for seniors, or try ride-sharing apps.
Virtual communication is easier than ever. Apps like FaceTime, Zoom, and other social media can keep you connected and social even in winter months when it’s nigh impossible to leave the house.
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, and much research has shown that exercise can be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression.