How Seniors Are Combating the Winter Blues

The winter blues, or seasonal depression, can affect everyone, but it can especially affect your parent or loved one. 

As people age, social circles tend to shrink. There may not be as much contact with former coworkers, and the loss of family or friends can have an impact on an individual’s well-being. Additionally, the reduced hours of daylight can make the day seem a little dreary. 

The good news? There are steps seniors are taking for increasing their mood throughout the winter. 

Why Combating the Seasonal Blues Is Important

Some folks welcome winter and love the snow and cool temperatures, but for many, the dark, cold days can bring down their mood. Seniors are particularly at risk for the seasonal depression. Approximately one-fourth of adults 65 years of age and older are socially isolated, leaving them at-risk for different types of depression.

“Winter blues” can actually be a nickname for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that impacts people during the same time every year. In some cases, SAD requires therapy and medication.

How the winter blues starts is obvious: When it’s cold, we stay inside for everything and for long periods of time. Often, the winter’s gray, cool weather is all a person needs to feel isolated—and social isolation can take a toll on mental and physical health. 

How to Tell if Your Loved One Has the Seasonal Blues 

If you’re noticing any of the following changes in your parent or loved one, they may be suffering from the winter blues.

Mental Health Effects of Seasonal Depression

  • Experiencing a loss of interest in activities that were once a joy
  • Feeling listless and sad consistently, day after day
  • Worrying more than usual, with increased anxiety
  • Being overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness

Physical Health Effects of the Seasonal Blues

  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Persistently struggling to concentrate
  • Experiencing appetite changes that lead to unwanted weight loss or gain 

Steps for Overcoming the Winter Blues

It’s important to take “the blues” seriously, because they can become so intense that some people feel hopeless and have thoughts about not wanting to live anymore. To help your parent or loved one whose mental health may be impacted by the chilly season, take the following steps.

1. Add more light exposure. 

Ask any party planner: Lighting sets the mood. The amount of light exposure can actually impact a person’s emotions and mental health. That’s why light exposure is so important during the winter months.

The right level of lighting can help increase mood. Ensuring that your parent or loved one has sufficient lighting in their living spaces can improve their mood and outlook on life. Turning on the lights seems like such a small thing, but it makes a difference. Specific light boxes that produce bright white light are available to purchase if you want to kick up simple light exposure to high-grade light therapy.

Beyond ambient lighting, never underestimate the power of vibrant colors. Adding pops of color through artwork and other decorations can go a long way toward boosting your loved one’s mood when the days are gray. Color can truly impact our mood—for instance, red can provide a zing of energy while blue creates a sense of calm. 

2. Get active and stay active.

You may or may not have heard, but sitting is the new smoking when it comes to negative health effects. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a buildup of fatty acids, potentially leading to heart disease. Staying put can also lead to blood clots or diabetes. When the weather gets too cold for outdoor physical activities, a lack of physical activity can cause anxiety and depression

However, the benefits of physical activity come into play when addressing the winter blues. Seniors who keep moving can boost their cognition and memory, and that activity helps alleviate stress and anxiety. Physical activity can also keep off unwanted weight, which improves your loved one’s health in a number of ways such as keeping a lid on blood pressure and cholesterol. 

If you think your parent or loved one might benefit from more physical activity during winter, there are plenty of inside exercise options, including: 


In almost every corner of the U.S., you can find a yoga class. Many local senior centers have exercise programs that include yoga. Plus, there is no shortage of yoga apps and streaming channels with yoga shows.


Many towns and cities have public indoor pools available in the winter such as in a gym, school, or community recreational program. Senior living communities sometimes have pools and offer fun pool-based exercise classes.


If your loved one lives in a southern state, outdoor walks are probably still a great idea when it’s not snowing or raining. If it’s too cold for an outdoor walk, malls and schools are great options to get in those steps.


Dancing is great exercise, not to mention buckets of fun. We’re not dancing with the stars here—nobody needs to be the next Paula Abdul. But the two-step, the waltz, or some line dancing? Heck yes! When was the last time your parent listened to their favorite Beatles song and danced around the living room? Whether they take a class at the community center or rock it out at home, encourage your loved one to dance away the winter gray,

As long as it’s low-impact and appropriate for their abilities, getting and staying physically active can be a great weapon when battling the winter blues.

3. Eat nutritious foods.

You can’t dance the night away in your living room without the proper fuel. Eating well all year round is pertinent to top physical and mental health, but it’s especially important in winter. Nutrient-rich foods such as salmon, fortified cereals, eggs, and mushrooms can boost vitamin D levels when the sun isn’t shining so bright or is covered by gray clouds.

Alcohol, refined carbs, sugar, and caffeine can all trigger anxiety. We’re not saying that your loved one should give up wine or coffee entirely, but encourage them toward moderation. All of these nutritional factors can also impact sleep, and lack of sleep can also trigger anxiety. 

Encourage your parent or loved one to be mindful of their nutritional intake. There’s nothing wrong with indulgence, but make sure it’s not adding to the winter blues.

4. Socialize with friends and family. 

This one is a no-brainer: Make sure your loved one is getting plenty of face time and phone calls with their friends and family.

Life gets busy. It’s easy to start work on a Monday, and the next thing you know, it’s Friday night and you’re sitting on the couch in your jammies. For retired seniors, there are no more workplace requirements or after-school activities to ferry family members to. Additionally, seniors may have mobility issues, making getting out a chore. The bottom line is that it’s easy for seniors to feel disconnected.

Interacting with loved ones can be one of the most powerful barriers to hold the winter blues at bay. Phone calls, emails, and virtual calls are great to stay in touch, but nothing is a substitute for in-person quality time. Given how busy we all are, you have to be intentional about helping your loved one stay connected. 


Food brings us together, so plan those family meals. If your family doesn’t have a Sunday dinner ritual, start one. If your parent lives in a senior living community, pop in during any mealtime to enjoy the restaurant-style food and a little quality time.

Holidays and Special Occasions

So many special occasions occur throughout the year, from Valentine’s Day to New Year’s Eve, with plenty of birthdays and anniversaries sprinkled throughout. It’s important to remember your loved one’s birthdays and other important occasions, but also remember to include them in other special events such as extended family birthday parties and weddings. If your parent or loved one is living in a senior living community, work with them to coordinate off-campus trips to family gatherings.

Casual Visits

You don’t need an excuse to visit your parent or loved one. Little things like watching a favorite show together or sharing a special treat can go a long way. Encourage your family and friends to put a day on their calendars once a month to just hang out with your loved one during the winter months. An hour-long visit can make all the difference during a gray and depressing day. 

Support Care Options as Your Parent or Loved One Ages

Your loved one’s health may be good now, but you don’t know what the road ahead will look like, especially as their social circle grows smaller. That’s where senior living communities can be a positive intervention. 

Senior living communities offer plenty of activities and opportunities for socialization. If your loved one is still vital and active but needs to make new connections, senior living could be the answer. From making sure your loved one gets delicious and nutritious meals to providing them with a community where there’s always something to do, the right senior living community can be the best step for your loved one to overcome the winter blues. 

See how Cedarhurst Senior Living can help your parent or loved one. View our communities and request information today.

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