Sure, there are a lot of reasons many of us enjoy winter, especially if we have memories of past ski adventures, fun in the snow with the family, and perhaps some special hot cocoa moments thrown in.
OK, it’s true that not all the residents of Long Beach and elsewhere have these memories. Some winters here, it barely gets below 60 degrees, which is pretty far from the winter wonderlands people in other states have experienced. Although, people receiving home health care probably can still score a mug of hot chocolate on a cooler winter day though. Don’t forget the marshmallows!
The team at Accredited Home Care knows that everyone has their own unique memories involving winter, and we love hearing them as we get to know our clients and their families.
But we’re also aware that not everyone has a great time in the winter. Or their childhood memories may be nice to recall and enjoy, but today, winter isn’t much fun at all for them.
There are some biological factors at play that can affect seniors more than other age groups, especially when days start to get shorter and darker and it’s a long time until spring. Even those of us in warm temperatures still may encounter days where it’s gray and gloomy. This can affect people physically and mentally.
It’s easy for young people to joke about old people always feeling chilly even when others are feeling fine, even warm. This isn’t just a stereotype but a scientific fact.
As we age, the walls of our blood vessels become less flexible, which makes blood move a little slower through our bodies, especially our fingers and toes. The skin itself also grows thinner and doesn’t conserve heat as well.
Our metabolism slows down as well so we’re less effective at warming ourselves.
Then, the AARP said there are other factors that can make us even colder and alter our internal temperatures, such as kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, anemia, and artery disease. Some medications like beta-blockers can also affect your internal temperature.
Because of this, many older people are more likely to want to turn up the heat, bundle up with sweaters or blankets, or keep the doors and windows closed.
They are also more susceptible to suffering from hypothermia than younger people in similar environments as well, something caregivers should pay attention to.
The ‘darkness’ of fall and winter can be literal as well as figurative.
At the height of winter, we may only see sunlight from late morning to early afternoon, and less if it’s a rainy or cloudy day.
All of these gray and dark days can affect people in different ways. A lack of sunlight can lead to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder. It includes feelings of sadness, fatigue, low energy, and low motivation. It can lead to a need to eat more.
If this sounds like you or someone close to you every winter, you may have had it for years and not realized it or just called it “the winter blues” and put it as part of the routine of winter that makes everyone yearn for spring.
Winter can be a time that’s stressful for many, with various holiday expectations and obligations.
Certainly, it’s easier for seniors to feel extra depressed this time of year – many of them may recall past winters in different circumstances, like occasions when the family was together at the holidays but today they may not be as close. Or there could be some sadness that they may have fewer winters left as they age.
But as doctors learn more about SAD, they learn that many of the feelings are connected to a lack of sunlight, so they are able to offer some solutions.
For instance, many prescribe light therapy, which consists of having a certain type of lamp be on near them so they can absorb it. Upping your intake of Vitamin D also helps if you can’t get direct sunlight. Check with your health provider for safe levels of increasing various minerals. He and she also may also discuss some options such as seeing a therapist to help with depression or look into other depression medications.
Newer research is showing that seniors dealing with dementia may even have a more difficult time in winter beyond Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Besides the possibility of feeling depressed and all the physical and mental symptoms of this condition, some seniors may see their mental abilities decrease and be more prone to schizophrenia. It can decrease overall cognitive abilities as well.
Along with light therapy and alerting their health provider, people are also encouraged to try to get in more physical activity and move more than usual, since there’s a natural tendency to want to stay on the couch or in the bed.
The Alzheimer’s Association said it also can help to start making plans for what to when it warms up, which could include everything from planting a garden to planning a trip.