Helping Seniors Avoid Holiday Depression

For most people, the holidays are a festive and happy time of year. However, they may trigger feelings of loneliness and sadness for others, especially older adults living on their own. Contrary to what many believe, depression is not a normal part of the aging process. That’s why seniors need to take proactive steps to stay healthy and connected, even when the hustle and bustle of the season may feel overwhelming.

Every stage in life brings significant changes and challenges, even the golden years. For many older adults who found a sense of purpose in their careers, retirement can be a very difficult transition. Health issues, physical limitations and disabilities may also prevent seniors from enjoying the activities of everyday life. Many are also grieving the loss of loved ones, and are just starting to reconnect with others following a long period of isolation due to the pandemic.

People of all ages go through periods of sadness or loneliness. However, it is important to take note if a friend or loved one displays more serious symptoms of depression. These include a loss of interest in hobbies or activities, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, withdrawing socially, feelings of hopelessness or irritability, physical aches and pains, and memory loss that is not related to dementia.

If you observe symptoms of depression in an elderly loved one, it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional who can provide a diagnosis, medication, therapy or a referral to a mental health specialist. By showing your love and support, you can encourage them to seek the help they need. Fortunately, these tips can also help prevent depression during the holidays:

Stay socially connected
While it can be tempting for an older adult to stay at home and avoid holiday gatherings, it is important for them to stay connected with friends and family. Spending time with others, attending special events, visiting a senior center, and joining a church or community group can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Avoid overextending
While many holiday traditions can be joyful, it is very important for seniors to set healthy limits by saying no to certain gatherings, simplifying holiday plans and taking time to rest during the hustle and bustle. It is also important for them to listen to their bodies and limit stress as much as possible, perhaps by accepting help with tasks such as shopping and decorating.

Keep up with health habits
Holiday treats, such as cookies and eggnog, can be hard to resist. However, it is especially important for seniors to maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise during this time of year. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle not only prevents weight gain and potential health issues, but helps boost mood and energy levels.

Take your medications
During the holiday season, missing medication doses can be a common problem for the elderly. This poses potential health risks and can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. Setting reminders to take medications and refill prescriptions, perhaps with the assistance of a caregiver or loved one, can help seniors stay on track and avoid health complications.

Set realistic expectations
For older adults who have lost loved ones or are experiencing changes in their health, the holidays can trigger feelings of loss and isolation. It is important for them to acknowledge that the holidays may be different than in previous years, and that it is okay to set realistic expectations. It may also help to focus on gratitude and ways to honor lost loved ones during holiday gathering and traditions.

While the holidays may bring up difficult emotions and challenges for the elderly, it is important for them to know they are not alone. Spending time with loved ones, participating in holiday activities or volunteering in the community may help combat feelings of loneliness, loss and isolation. If their feelings of depression persist, it is important for them to seek the help of a doctor or therapist. With care and support, seniors can make new and lasting memories during this holiday season.

There are also hotlines and resources available for those experiencing depression and loneliness during the holidays, such as the new national three-digit crisis number “988” that provides assistance during a mental health crisis.

Growing older brings its unique challenges, but it doesn’t have to mean depression and loneliness. Older adults can avoid isolation and its dangers by making an effort to connect with others, taking advantage of technology, getting regular exercise, and finding a sense of purpose. Dealing with depression and avoiding the dangers of isolation can give the older adult in your life the freedom to enjoy all the benefits that the golden years can provide

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression or considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at the three-digit number “988” to receive assistance during a crisis.


Pacific Federal is a Zenith American company and subsidiary of Harbour Benefit Holdings, Inc.