The temptation to hibernate during the winter is a challenge for all, but especially for older adults who may face more limitations than most people. Maintaining a strong body and mind is an important part of weathering the winter.
It’s very common for older adults to be more prone to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in the winter (such as depression or fatigue). Here are four easy ways to help seniors stay active this season and fight off fatigue and depression during the cold months ahead.
1. Get Moving – Moving our bodies helps us to stay strong. Exercising has many benefits, including lifting spirits to building strength. Getting out on a sunny winter afternoon delivers a much needed dose of vitamin D. Exercising during the winter has physical, mental and social benefits. There are a variety of ways to stay moving all winter, some of which include:
- Swimming – Swimming is an excellent activity to enjoy all year round. But especially when the weather outside is cold. Swimming helps improve balance, flexibility and strength. A study in Australia found that men over the age of 70 who swam regularly were 33% less like to fall than other men. Taking time to swim laps or to do water aerobics are great, low impact ways to exercise. If your senior loved one is unsteady on their feet, have someone accompany them in the change room and in the water. Ask around for pools that have ramps allowing for wheelchair access if needed. Your senior loved one could benefit from just moving gently or sitting in the warm water.
- Walking – Walking is one of the healthiest forms of exercise. Community centers, indoor walking tracks, local universities, and the shopping mall are all great places to get moving.Many local malls open early to accommodate seniors who want to get some exercise in.
- Join A Class – Many community organizations and senior living facilities offer fitness classes. These can be very active or have a slightly slower pace.
2. Social Matters – While the holidays may bring with them a rush of social commitments, the post-holiday letdown usually includes a lull in opportunities for socialization. Unfortunately, this can lead to increasing incidences of isolation in seniors. Whether you schedule a standing weekly lunch date or look into local clubs for seniors, make sure your aging loved one has plenty of chances to connect with friends and family. Not only will these engagements get your loved one out and about, but they also have the ability to boost morale and immunity.
3. Boost the Brain – It is important for seniors to stay both psychically and mentally active during the winter months. Staying healthy isn’t just a matter of physical intangibles. Mental fitness is also critical, especially for those who may not have many things to stay busy in the winter. It is important to encourage your loved ones to do about an hour’s worth of mind-stimulating activities per day. Activities like puzzles, brain teasers, or just reading a good book are all great for maintaining mental health. Families should even consider scheduling a multi-generational afternoon of card game or board games. The young and old alike will both enjoy — and benefit from — the company and the mental stimulation. Listening to music is another great way to engage and energize the mind. Artistic endeavors like painting, coloring, sculpting and sketching, knitting, crossword puzzles and reading are all great examples of ways to keep the mind sharp.
4. Get Cooking – Find one of your loved one’s favorite winter recipes, gather ingredients, and set aside a morning or afternoon for cooking together. The act of following a recipe, preparing a meal, and sharing it with others helps keep the mind sharp and healthy. It is also a great bonding and very enjoyable activity. Plus, the benefits of communal meals for seniors are abundant. Staying active in the winter months can be difficult for older adults. However the payoffs in strength, confidence and overall mental health are well worth the effort. While your loved ones may hesitate to try new things, your support and never ending encouragement can go a long way.
Additionally, there are plenty of events on our Activity Calendar that seniors can attend. These range from ceramics classes to writing workshops.