Autumn is a special time. The leaves are turning gorgeous colors, and children return to school. For most, autumn is full of excitement and possibilities. For many seniors, itís a depressing time.
For seniors that have an empty nest after raising a family, the fall season is a reminder that they no longer have children in the home to prepare for school. Their own children are busy in the fall and might visit less frequently during this time. As a result, the senior might experience feelings of loneliness.
For seniors that are alone and have no family, it can be a difficult time because they experience isolation in greater numbers than those with adult children. They find that their friends are with their own families. There are few invitations to parties and dinners, if any at all. The senior is often retired, and has slowly lost contact with people that he used to have contact with during the week. Every day is somewhat lonely, but itís acute in the fall, with holidays coming up.
Many seniors are living with an adult child or other relative that has never done well on her own. Often a chronically unemployed, alcoholic, drug addicted, mentally ill or homeless relative will move in with a senior family member. Seniors living with the family neíer do well frequently suffer from depression due to their living situation. The depression can become worse during the holidays, so the senior doesn't look forward to the change in season.
What can seniors do to make the autumn a good time, and not a depressing time? Here are three important strategies:
1. Move! Exercise isnít always fun, but it makes a huge difference in oneís quality of life. Most people know that exercise elevates the mood and forces a person to breathe deeply, which helps to elevate the mood, clear the mind, and feed the body oxygen. If getting to a senior center or gym isnít convenient, then do what will work for you. It might mean walking in your home or on the first couple of stairs in your home. It might mean doing bed or wheelchair exercises, and it might even mean that a bedbound person practices breathing deeply and flexing and stretching. The point is to do what can be done. We use it or lose it, and if we use it, we feel better.
2. Plan! The holidays are coming. Think: What can I do to make this holiday season fun? Can you get out and volunteer for a cause you care about? Help raise money for holiday meals or gifts for children? Join a group that sings at hospitals and facilities during the holidays? Can you get together with some friends or family and adopt a family or person for the holidays? Have you always been interested in how various cultures celebrate holidays around the world? This is a great time to learn! Invite folks over for tea, cocoa, lunch, brunch, potlucks, cookie exchanges. Fill your calendar. Keep it simple so that you donít feel pressured to spend. The point is to add to your fun.
3. Beautify! The fall is a great time to clear clutter and cobwebs, wash windows and shampoo carpets. What we see influences the way we feel. Look around you right now. Do you like what you see? Does your home feel comfortable and welcoming? Take pictures of the rooms in your home and then look at the pictures. What do you want to change? Start with one room, then move to the next. If itís overwhelming to think of cleaning or decorating a room, then start with one thing Ė clear out all unwanted books. Give away unwanted clothing from one closet.
Start a list, and stick with it. Itís hard to be depressed when youíre in the middle of an exciting activity. As each project is finished, the feeling of accomplishment and the appreciation of the fresh energy in your home will create positive feelings.
If you feel depressed regularly, speak with your doctor or therapist. Depression is a medical condition for some people, and can be treated. The strategies listed above are meant to help those whose depression is situational and triggered by the fall season.