MetroWest CARES (the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors), coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ (UJC MetroWest), brings together leaders from MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s column on proactive steps to combat the winter “blues” is presented by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.
Our families, friends, and the media all tell us we should be happy and enjoying ourselves, all the time. But for many people, the winter months can cause undue stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Some older adults are able to travel to a warmer climate to avoid the cold and winter demands. For many older adults, however, that sort of escape is not possible. For older adults who will be staying closer to home in MetroWest, here are a few suggestions to help make this winter better.
• Determine a personal goal to pursue. Tuning into what you need and taking concrete steps toward that goal helps focus energy and activity in a positive way. Making progress toward realizing personal goals can make the next few months easier.
• Do not isolate yourself. When planning activities, it is good to find ways to include other people. For example, if one is a reader, consider using the library, a local book store, or joining a book club. It is worthwhile to explore the community calendar in your local newspaper — it’s a great way to uncover programs or activities of interest close to home, such as lectures, craft classes, cultural activities, movie screenings, and discussion groups.
• Find a walking partner to exercise with on a weekly basis. Having a walking partner can make walking a social event and more pleasurable. In inclement weather, the mall is a great place to walk. Some malls have clubs that meet before the stores opens. Local options include the Very Important Pacers at the Short Hills Mall, the New Vitality Mall Walkers at the Willowbrook Mall, and the Rockaway Township Mall Walkers program. The Guest Services department within a mall is a good source for additional information on available walking programs.
• Volunteer with an organization or a charity of your choice. Many people are generous with financial donations but don’t consider donating time. Interesting possibilities include volunteering as an usher at a community playhouse or performing arts center; walking dogs or petting cats at a local animal shelter; or sharing a skill with others, such as crafting, photography, writing, or playing a musical instrument. Matching up a personal interest with a volunteer assignment will make the activity more satisfying. One new resource for finding opportunities is the “Volunteers and Seniors Together” program at the JCC, which can be contacted by phone at 973-530-3447.
• Plan a fun activity. Join a weekly exercise or yoga class. Take a course on a topic you have wanted to explore for years: dance, art, music, indoor gardening, creative writing, are just a few ideas. Having an activity to look forward to each week helps provide structure and brings a sense of purpose to each week. Teaching a class may also be an option to consider.
• Make a list of things you want to do, not only the things you have to do. Schedule a time to tackle items on those lists. Completing a task from either list, before starting a new one, brings a sense of accomplishment, and if the task is from the “want to do” list, it is likely to be enjoyable, too.
• Smile. Research shows that smiling has many positive effects on your health and well-being, including lowering your blood pressure, relieving stress, and it can even help improve mood. An extra bonus, smiling also makes us look younger.
The winter months have a slower pace, which can provide more opportunities to spend time with people you enjoy; the friends who make you laugh, those who are easy to be with. Consider inviting your favorite people over for a potluck dinner, thus alleviating the burden of cooking. Or, if cooking is fun for you, then do that. There is no “cookie cutter” way to get the most out of winter — other than to find creative ways to do those activities that bring us the most satisfaction, are enjoyable, and are sure to make us feel good, no matter the weather.
Families and caregivers with broad eldercare questions and who need help with community resources can contact Elderlink, a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Elderlink is online at www.elderlinkmetrowest.org.