Five Tips to Avoid Wintertime Isolation

Wintertime blues are a real malady, affecting between 10 and 20 percent of the population, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. But it’s not all about the lack of light at this time of year. It’s also about the lack of company.

Isolation can be especially problematic for elderly people and those with disabilities. University of Chicago psychologist and researcher found extreme loneliness can increase chances of premature death by 14 percent. “Feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression and lower overall subjective well-being,” he said.

To combat the isolation and keep seniors feeling well this winter, these steps can help.

#1 Reach out. Whether to family, friends or neighbors, reach out to people in your circles and connect with them. If you have a church, ask clergy if your congregation has a visiting program. At the very least, you’ll probably get a pastor, rabbi or other leader at your door.

#2 Sign up to receive Meals on Wheels. The program not only ensures that you maintain a healthy diet during winter months but it also brings daily contact with at least one person. You can take a few minutes to chat with the volunteer delivering your meal.

#3 Invite friends. If you’re able to cook, plan a group meal once a week to gather your friends together. If that’s too much trouble, ask them over to play cards.

#4 Use Skype. Video calls provide a more rewarding connection than traditional phone calls, and they’re especially great for family members separated by distance. Don’t let the technology scare you away, though. With a little help, you can get your system set so that all you need to do is hit a couple of buttons and presto: you see your grandkids.

#5 Tap into local resources. Call your local ADRC (which stands for Aging and Disability Resource Center). True to its name, workers there can connect you with several resources to help you maintain social connections. You can also call 2-1-1, an information and referral crisis line with information on more than 4,200 community programs.