Help Aging Parents: When Shorter Days=Depression or Doldrums

Six Suggestions to Help Aging Parents
Through the Shorter Days of Autumn and Short, Dark Days of Winter

Why? Just as sunshine usually gives us a better outlook, the arrival of autumn (on Wednesday) with less sun, cooler weather, falling leaves, and ultimately barren trees and dark days has the opposite effect on many.  To help parents age well with a positive attitude six suggestions follow.

–Structure it so aging parents–especially those who are homebound– have daily connections with family members and friends (old friends new friends, your children, your childhood friends if they still see your parents, clergy). It can help avoid a “funk” or get them out of a “funk.”

-Arrange for letters, notes, faxes, e-mails, (hard copies can be shared with friends and reread), phone calls, Skype to arrive daily. Fax and e-mail take little time, require no conversation, yet bring stimulation to aging parents along with the knowledge someone is thinking about them–great for busy children.

–Remember that “carrots,” plans to do something at a future time, give aging parents something to think about and look forward to.

–Asking advice in a phone call, e-mail etc. doesn’t happen as much with older people. To be asked reinforces self-esteem–the feeling of being able to contribute, of being needed.

–Sharing appropriate personal thoughts and feelings–with or without asking for input–is flattering (promotes self-esteem) and inclusive.

–Discussing news and exchanging ideas is stimulating. And who doesn’t like gossip!

The highly regarded 1987 MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America (along with other studies) identified social connectedness as one of the three most important factors in successful aging.  The more people in an aging person’s life, the better.

So in the dark, dreary months ahead, connections with others take on even more importance.  They provide stimulation.  They help older parents combat feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.  And that makes our life easier too.

In addition, an elderly person’s feeling that he or she matters–that someone cares–is priceless.  And isn’t that a big part of what helping parents age well is all about.

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