Winter can be a long and draining season for seniors, both physically and mentally. Ice, snow, cold temperatures and shorter days can complicate getting outside. Being stuck inside may create problems of its own, with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or loneliness around the holidays representing particular challenges many older Americans face.
The winter blues are known to seniors both living at home or in retirement communities. Pesky as they are, it's important for seniors' well-being to beat back the winter blues. It's understandable if walking outside isn't an option, but a total lack of exercise can become a danger that goes beyond seasonal inactivity.
Fortunately, there are creative and practical solutions to combating the cold. Here are five of the options seniors living in a retirement community can use for inspiration when motivating themselves and their fellow residents to shake off the frost:
1. Find indoor exercise replacements
The first step seniors should take is to find indoor alternatives to the usual outdoor exercise they get in warmer temperatures. Given the accessibility of any on-site workout facilities, residents have a number of options for indoor exercise. Even without a dedicated exercise room or pool, activities like indoor yoga and hallway walking are suitable replacements. Seniors can find yoga tutorials online to do self-directed practice. Better yet, they can find an available space to use for a communal yoga class. Stretching isn't cardio, but it's good for the body all the same.
It's also good for the mind. Physical and mental well-being are closely tied to one another, and getting exercise can relieve stress, release endorphins and generally create a better mood. This dual lift from exercising makes it a must for seniors when the doldrums of winter are at their worst.
2. Host a social gathering
Many communities have resident-staffed planning groups that throw parties and other events. These bodies should be particularly active during the winter downtime, and individual residents should feel welcome to pitch their own ideas. Consider a seasonal approach like a hot chocolate social, which can work like an ice cream bar. A table of various goodies like marshmallows and sprinkles would make for a warm treat for a gathering that helps residents break the winter chill.
Taking the winter theme and making it fun can be accomplished in other ways. There are a number of cinematic classics that are set in the winter; screening some for a movie marathon is one way to break the monotony, as well as gather residents together.
3. Read a book or start a club
It's easy to binge the latest streaming hit, but it can be tiring. Breaking the rut with a book is a good way to find some enjoyment in the winter. Just like TV, there's a genre of book for everyone, whether crime thriller, nonfiction, romance, memoir, literary or self-help. A cozy spot by the window can help seniors make use of what natural light the winter gives. And while books are just as easy to devour as bingeable series, starting a book club can help set a pace and involve others in the story, which can enhance the reading experience.
4. Take a trip
Sometimes, the best way to beat the winter blues is to avoid them entirely. If seniors have the means to take a trip, they should consider a quick getaway to a warmer locale. Spur-of-the-moment trips are one way to find relief from the cold. Destination vacations can be more affordable if planned over the long term. For instance, shopping for the best hotel rates and saving up over the months can ensure seniors enjoy the warm sun cost-effectively.
5. Stimulate the mind or get creative
Dreary winter days can take a toll on the psyche over time. If the weather forces a more sedentary lifestyle, it can be all the more maddening. Exercise doesn't always have to be physical. Giving the mind a good workout during winter is key to helping ward off depression. Regular brain teasers — like crossword puzzles— have been proven to have positive side effects, and they can help provide much-needed stimulation during the winter gloom. Other creative outlets like music, craftsmanship, painting or knitting are similarly useful during the winter. If a community resident doesn't already have a hobby, picking one up can be a benefit to both personal expression and social needs.
Spring is perennially around the corner, but waiting on winter to clear can be a challenge to physical and mental well-being. Helping seniors find ways to beat the blues through community-wide events or exercise is crucial.
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