Loneliness and depression during the winter months are an extremely common experience for many people, especially older adults. Individuals, families, and caregivers are wise to create practical strategies for making the winter less lonely for our aging loved ones.
Think about the reasons loneliness is more prevalent during the winter. The holiday family gatherings are over and cherished family members have returned to their busy lives. Winter days have less sunlight since they are gray and shorter. This can lead to the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of energy to interact with others. Colder temperatures make it easy to stay under a blanket and avoid socializing. Lastly, the peak of flu season is between December and March which makes many seniors avoid social gatherings. Together these factors can lead our elderly loved ones to feel isolated which can negatively impact physical, mental, and emotional health.
The good news is that the winter blues are not inevitable. There are several ways families and caregivers can help our seniors combat winter loneliness. One way is for family members to create a calendar of regular visits, even if it is just through virtual chats. We forget how much our seniors cherish visits from family members. Another option is to help our aging loved ones join a group or club that shares their interests. This can be a great way to meet new people and participate in enjoyable activities. An exercise group is another way to fight loneliness. Not only does a walking group or a gym club have social benefits, but it also provides physical benefits, improves mood, and enhances mental well-being. A few simple strategies can be a big blessing for our seniors.
Overall, loneliness during the winter is a common experience, but it is important to remember that there are steps that can be taken to avoid it. Staying connected with others, participating in activities that bring joy, and taking care of oneself are all ways to help alleviate feelings of loneliness and improve overall well-being during the colder winter months.
Dave Crandall, M.Div. is a counselor at Next Step Counseling & Coaching. For more information, call 615.502.1883 or visit https://www.nextsteptn.com/counselor.