With winter on the way, it’s important to be aware of the associated physical and mental health risks for older adults. While Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression, is common among all ages, seniors may have a higher risk of developing it. But depression is not a normal part of growing older, and with proper care, seasonal depression in seniors can be prevented and treated. Read on to learn more.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression brought on by a change in seasons. SAD is usually experienced during the fall and winter and is more common in communities far from the equator, where winters are colder and darker (that means us, Minnesota).
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but a likely cause is decreased exposure to natural light during the winter. Sunlight has an important effect on our brain chemistry and circadian rhythm. Shorter daylight hours can interrupt our internal clocks and lower our serotonin levels, leaving us at greater risk of depression.
Another possible explanation is increased isolation during the winter. Cold temperatures and harsh weather cause many people to hunker down at home for days or weeks at a time, leading to less social interaction. Too much alone time can bring feelings of loneliness and depression.
Symptoms of SAD include:
Seniors face an increased risk of SAD due to several reasons. The CDC states that about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more. And unfortunately, depression is more common among people with other serious illnesses.
The limited mobility that affects many seniors also compounds with harsh winter conditions to create even greater isolation during the colder months. And the lack of sunlight exacerbates existing Vitamin D deficiencies that many older adults suffer from, further disrupting serotonin levels.
Add these challenges to the fact that mental health struggles are often ignored and untreated among seniors, and the door to seasonal depression is left wide open. Fortunately, a healthy community and intentional care can go a long way toward managing this issue.
Depression is not a normal part of growing older, and like any other medical condition, it’s entirely treatable. Here are four strategies for maintaining good mental health this winter.
If you or a loved one are looking for a senior living residence that offers personal care and fosters independence, come visit one of our Southview Senior Communities. We understand that everyone comes to us with their own story, so we tailor our services to every resident to ensure a welcoming environment. Contact one of our locations or schedule a tour today!
1984 Oakdale Avenue
West Saint Paul, MN 55118