8 Tips to Beat Winter Depression in Seniors

8 Tips to help seniors beat cabin fever

Winters in colder states such as New Jersey can be depressing, especially for seniors. It’s not just the snow, ice, lack of sunshine, and bitterly cold temperatures that can get people down–it’s also the social isolation that comes from not venturing out in the elements which contributes to winter depression. Being isolated is especially difficult for seniors whose enjoy socializing and crave frequent social interactions. Social isolation can lead to both physical and mental health problems and can increase dementia risk. It can cause seniors to feel pessimistic about their future. A lack of transportation can also lead seniors to feel socially isolated.

How are your older parents are loved ones doing this winter? Check for the following signs:

  • Feeling stressed and/or anxious
  • Expressing irritability
  • Feeling sad and crying frequently
  • Feeling tired all the time and lacking energy
  • Gaining weight with increased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or having a low self-esteem
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Experiencing indecisiveness
  • Lacking interest in activities which were once enjoyable
If they are experiencing any of these signs, they may be experiencing winter depression. It’s a good idea to have a health care professional check them for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or clinical depression. The health care provider will be able to suggest treatment options, including both medical and also non-medical options.

While no one has a magical cure for loneliness and isolation, these tips may help seniors tackle winter depression:

  • Increase sunlight exposure, either via a light therapy lamp or going outside more frequently
  • Volunteering helps seniors feel needed and valued
  • Sign up for a class of some kind—cooking, language, exercise, computer training, etc.
  • Engage in hysical activity, preferably in a group setting
  • Invest in technology: Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, texting, and email are all ways to broaden a senior’s world
  • Adopt a pet, or have one visit. Having a pet can lower blood pressure and anxiety as well as provide companionship and a sense of well-being
  • Consider hiring a home care employee, such as Visiting Angels, to provide companionship
  • Attend an activity at a local senior center: bingo, dancing, lectures, and other programs