Battling the Winter Blues-Senior Isolation

Being cooped up indoors due to cold conditions and weather can put our parents at risk of isolating themselves from others, putting their emotional and mental state at risk too. Dangers like icy roads, fall risks, and catching the winter bug are all concerns for the elderly that make them want to stay indoors even more. For females, age 85 and up 57% live alone. For men, the corresponding proportions are 13% and 29% and seniors who are 100 years of age or older, about a third of them are alone as well. No interaction with others or social engagement can be detrimental.

Isolation in the elderly can lead to some distressing health outcomes, and even in worse cases death. A review 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” according to an article on senior living blog.

As family members and caregivers we can help ensure our loved ones don’t experience the winter blues. Checking in on your senior is a good way to start. Enlist the help of others who may be nearby and more easily able to visit if you are far away or weather permits. A simple phone call will also do and reminds your loved one you are thinking about them. Those that live alone also may be at greater risk of getting poor nutrition when the weather turns bad-not being able to get to a grocery store. Consider getting food delivered (Meals on Wheels) which can provide not just nutritious food but social contact too.

Encourage your loved ones to use adaptive technologies they may need, like hearing aids, scooters, or walkers, which can help them become more easily active and socially engaged. Helping your loved one get around, or arranging safe transportation for them will encourage getting out and about. Most importantly, being proactive about seniors’ health can help them feel better on a day-to-day basis. Regular checkups with a physician are important and will help ensure that our seniors are getting all the care they need to continue to live a healthy lifestyle.