The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can trigger depression and sadness in many people, including older adults. Over the years, you might have witnessed changes in your loved one’s mood as the holiday season draws near. Some seniors become irritable and quick to anger, while others may be tearful and withdrawn. These behaviors are a stark contrast to the cheerfulness most of us associate with the season.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, about six million seniors experience depression. People over age 65 who have experienced a major health issue are at an even higher risk. The holidays can be especially challenging for a variety of reasons.
What Causes Holiday Depression among Older Adults?
Senior depression during the holidays is linked to a variety of causes:
- Winter blues: Depending on what climate the senior lives in, weather can play a role. Cold, icy weather combined with fewer hours of sunlight can lead to a condition called seasonal affective disorder. For some people, it can be serious enough that medical intervention is required.
- Isolation: For adults with mobility challenges or those who have given up driving, feeling isolated and alone during the holidays is often the culprit. It might seem to a senior that everyone has someplace to go except them.
- Grief and loss: For many seniors, facing the holidays without a loved one is the source of their depression. The festivities may serve as a reminder of how the holidays were spent before a loved one’s passing.
- Declining health: Health problems, especially ones that impact their ability to join in holiday parties or vacations, can trigger feelings of sadness.
Recognizing the Signs of Senior Depression during the Holidays
If you suspect a senior loved one is at risk for holiday depression, learning the most common warning signs can help you intervene early. According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, signs of senior depression include the following:
- Prolonged sorrow and sadness (lasting for more than a few weeks)
- Loss of energy and feelings of weariness
- Withdrawing from favorite hobbies and social activities
- Change in personality or mood
- Easily tearful or quick to anger
- Unintended weight gain or loss
- Problems sleeping—either sleeping too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating and shortened attention span
- Lack of interest in joining holiday gatherings or family parties
As we head into the holiday season, adult children and family members should be mindful of these red flags. It’s important to remember that depression is not a normal part of the aging process. Depression can be a serious health issue that requires proper medical treatment.
Intergenerational Activities for Families to Enjoy
One way to help a senior loved one avoid holiday depression is by spending quality time together. This article may give you some ideas for activities that several generations of your family can enjoy together.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living