Depression and loneliness— getting through the winter months

Written by Megan Benner Senecal. Posted in Taking Care of Your Life

The winter season is here, and the holidays are behind us. For many of us, the holiday season was full of events, parties, and fellowship, but many elders in our community may not have experienced the same joys during the holiday season.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019) finds that the majority of older adults are not depressed, with some estimates of major depression in older people living in the community ranging from less than one-percent to about five-percent. However, those numbers begin to rise to approximately 13.5 percent in those who require home health care and to 11.5 percent in older hospital patients. Whether living at home or in a facility, older adults may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, uselessness, and depression, and some may even contemplate suicide.

What can we do to help?

Make a list of the elders in your family and schedule time with them. Stop by unexpectedly and take a gift of love. Now that the holidays are over, plan an outing with them to give hope and expectation. Send a card with a hand-written note that shows a thoughtful personal touch.

If you don’t have any older adults in your family, go out into your neighborhood or your community and try to reach out to someone who may be feeling lonely. You may even consider making a visit to a senior center or local nursing facility.

Whomever you reach out to will most likely view your presence as a gift. The older we get, the more we understand that time is the most valuable gift of all. So, whether it’s your mom, your grandfather, your great uncle, or a neighbor down the street, make a point to have your New Year’s resolution reflect a desire to give back to older adults in your life. Something as simple as gifting someone a calendar and setting a date for coffee or brunch can be a gesture of immeasurable kindness to an older adult who would otherwise feel alone during these winter months.

Moving forward, when spending time with older adults who are in your life, make a point to take a moment after your visit to reflect. Keep a journal of the conversations to recall and share a couple of months later, and inspire others to take up the challenge.

The value of the elders in our community must be evidenced by our time commitment to their lives. This winter, bring a smile to at least one elder. Give a smile to everyone you meet, and share the spirit of love. Please reach out to the Long-Term- Care-Ombudsman Program in the new year to hear about advocacy for our elders and how you can become involved. We can be reached at 419-259-2891.

If you or someone you care about is in crisis, please seek help immediately.

Call 911.

Visit a nearby emergency department or your healthcare provider’s office.

Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.

Megan Benner Senecal is a member of the Ombudsman Office. ❦