The winter season can become especially trying for seniors and their children. Due to cold weather conditions, seniors are forced to stay indoors and start to feel isolated. Driving conditions are too dangerous and they have a higher risk of falling. This is a serious issue as well as isolating seniors can be harmful to their mental health. A study performed in 2012 published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, stated that “social isolation has been demonstrated to lead to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults, including increased risk for all-cause mortality, dementia, increase risk for re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls.” Sadly a senior feeling isolated can even result in death. Isolation can cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol as well as elevate your blood pressure. It can also increase depression. Feelings of isolation in seniors can be hard to detect at times. Seniors tend to hide the fact they are feeling isolated and don’t want to burden their loved ones. We love our family so here are ways you can help protect them during the cold winter months.
Socializing is extremely important when it comes to preventing isolation. It is important that you know of your loved ones underlying health issues. Certain age-related health issues you may not know about can increase depression and their sense of isolation. Some serious weather conditions can make it impossible for you to visit or contact your loved one. It might be a good idea to look into a medical device that they can easily push a button for emergency help if needed. Another good idea is to keep a list handy of close neighbors or friends. If for some reason you cannot get a hold of your loved one, the neighbor or friend can drop by to check on them. Teach your loved one how to use social media applications such as Skype. The use of such apps can make it easier for you to “be there” even if weather conditions are impossible. This is a great way to stay connected with your loved one without risking their safety or yours. If your loved one is living in a senior living community, another great tip is to arrange for them to visit a neighbor within their community. Have dinner delivered to your loved one’s home and have them host a small dinner party at home with their neighbors. This will keep your loved one active and motivated throughout the winter and away from the depression that comes from isolation.
Social Circles and Clubs
Keeping seniors active in the winter can be challenging. You can’t take walks in the rain or do swim aerobics outside. However, it is important that seniors stay physically active regardless of the weather. While it’s not necessarily exercising, entering social circles and clubs is a great indoor activity for mental health. Examples would be a book club, knitting circle and visiting with family and friends as frequently as possible. If your senior is still able to do light exercise have them join a fitness class. There are even centers with indoor pools where they can do low impact water exercising. Exercise is important to help improve their energy levels and keeping their mind and body strong. Make sure your senior gets up frequently if possible and walk around indoors. Anything to help get the blood flowing. Another tip to help seniors stay active are new hobbies. Teach them how to use new technology, such as a new app on a tablet or how to use a computer. A weekly game night is another great way to keep them on their toes. Many seniors enjoy card games such as poker, bridge, uno and etc. Encourage them to bundle up and head out to church events, many churches hold events around the holidays such as plays, musicals and dinners.
Diet and Nutrition
Seniors spend more time indoors in the winter which can affect their diet and nutrition. When we are indoors most of the time we tend to eat a smaller variety of foods. This causes deficiencies in nutrition especially vitamin D. Seniors should make sure they are drinking more milk and eating more foods rich in vitamin D such as seafood and grains. Try to get them to increase their vegetable intake. A few tips to add more fruits and veggies to their diet are to use them as breakfast toppings. Add strawberries to oatmeal, or bananas to pancakes, and blueberries as waffles toppers. Add spinach leaves and fresh tomatoes to pasta dishes and incorporate more salads before your main dish when eating out. Raw vegetables, such as baby carrots with a tasty dip is a great idea for a snack. Usually by dinner time most seniors are too tired to eat. This is why you should make sure lunch is their biggest meal of the day. Having your senior eat small meals throughout the day is better than three large ones. Eating small meals reduces the highs and lows of insulin levels and encourages more calorie intake.