For many, the holidays are not always the happiest time of the year – especially for the elderly. Many family members may live far away and seniors struggle with decorating, shopping, or preparing holiday meals because they can’t move around as easily as they did when they were younger.
The holiday blues for seniors are typically temporary and disappear when the season is over. Sometimes, the holiday blues are associated with the time change when daytime becomes shorter.
However, roughly 1 in 4 seniors (ages 65 or older) suffers from depression, and more than 70 percent of older Americans feel isolated and lonely. Sadly, most senior depression is often misdiagnosed and mistaken for other age-related issues.
According to the U.C. Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, stress-related events such as the holidays may trigger half of all depressive episodes.
Signs of Senior Depression
- Lack of appetite
- Extreme fatigue – excessive sleeping.
- Problems concentrating
- Not engaged in social activities – may stop doing normal things such as going to church
- Older adults may not express sadness (unlike kids with depression)
- Using drugs or alcohol more often
- Being angry – sarcastic and criticizes others’ joy of the season
Tips to Help Senior Depression
Encourage seniors to exercise. Various studies reveal that staying physically active not only makes people feel good but it has the same effect on mood and brain chemistry as antidepressants.
- Keep alcohol use to a minimum – Alcohol is a known depressant. Festive drinks such as eggnog or hot chocolate are great alternatives for toasting to the holiday season.
- Don’t feel obligated to buy lots of gifts – sometimes gift giving can create a lot of financial stress. Instead, send personalized cards to family and friends.
- Stay connected socially – Volunteering and giving back to the community has a positive effect on people’s moods and increases their sense of self-worth. Family members, or friends, of a senior can teach them how to use computers or cell phones to help stay socially connected with their loved ones.
- Taking a senior on a road trip to see Holiday lights or visit at a local coffee shop can help boost holiday cheer outside the home.
- Be a good listener – Sometimes all it takes to help a senior with the holiday blues is to simply listen.