Combatting Senior Sadness in Fall
Do we notice mood changes in elders when less daylight makes days feel shorter?
September 22nd. The beginning of Fall– the Fall Equinox. Hours of daylight lessen. Days feel shorter. Darker days darken some people’s mood. Clearly the elderly aren’t immune and may be even more at risk if they live alone or are inclined to “see the glass half empty.”
The idea of cozy, apple cider, pumpkin pie and beautiful fall foliage may be off their radar–replaced by gloom, doom, and loneliness as they contemplate the literally-darker days ahead.
Adding some spirit-lifting ideas for this group has become tradition for Help! Aging Parents. But we’re a bit earlier this year and why is that? While the unusually warm weather in many parts of the US is delaying signs of fall in terms of leaves on trees and other vegetation dying down, it seems holiday decorations appear earlier and earlier every year and 2016 is no exception. Indeed, pumpkins are in evidence in NYC now–seen this week outside of Lowe’s, some restaurants, and in some window displays
This actually gives us more time to provide activities that add interest to the lives of those elders we care about.
- For the homebound, try this simple entertainment: On a level surface, balance an egg on its end during the vernal or autumnal equinox. We’re told this is tricky, but can be done any day of the year–especially if eggs have little bumps on the ends. (click 1-minute video). I forgot to do it the other day, but here’s proof–a picture taken years ago during the vernal equinox in March with a non-bumpy egg. Using a non-bumpy egg, takes practice; but I could teach neighborhood children to do it—so give it a try next March, or look for bumpy eggs and give it a try now. Guaranteed to spark conversation about something other than aches and pains.
2. A drive to view the fall foliage speaks for itself. Although outings with older people may require bringing along a lot of extra stuff, the chance to get out and see different scenery, and spend time chatting in the car is priceless, memorable, and gives elders something to talk about and think about well past the event itself. Including a meal along the way adds to the enjoyment. Can anything equal Autumn in Vermont?
3. Since we know mobility–and maintaining balance–require more effort as people get older, taking a walk addresses several issues in the “If-You-Don’t-Use-It, You-Lose-It category.” Leg muscles strengthen with walks (whether using a cane or not); socialization likely occurs; and clearly children, dogs, cyclists and scenery are in great supply (note Central Park photo at top). This expands horizons, especially for those who, through choice or preference, remain housebound.
4. Apple-picking is synonymous with fall and includes exercise–if only a short walk. Many orchards open their property to apple-pickers. Could a drive to an orchard with elderly parents and their grandchildren provide a fun outing?
5. Ditto for the pumpkin patch or farm stand. Plan a trip with children and elders to visit a pumpkin patch or select this year’s pumpkin from those at the farm’s stand.
6. And what’s more fun than generations cooking together. There’s something about working together in the warmth of a kitchen that provides special moments. Making apple cider isn’t difficult; encourages conversation; and the resulting aroma that fills the air is an added bonus- (2 recipes below)
7. More togetherness in the kitchen includes making applesauce together or what about this recipe for applesauce pancakes? …Is it too early to make a pumpkin pie?
There’s an added 3-fold benefit when these ideas are planned ahead of time. As Sr. Advisor said: they’re something to look forward to; they’re something to do; and they’re something to look back on and think about. That’s almost a home-run isn’t it! And if the cooking is added, could it be called a bases-loaded home run ?
Surprising Depression Symptoms from Prevention Magazine
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