Although it is not uncommon for people of all ages to experience some degree of sadness over the holidays, be it from having been isolated during the pandemic or having experienced the loss of a loved one, older adulthood is a time of greatest risk and could result in substantial increases in death by suicide. For this very reason, it is encouraged to start a conversation with a friend, family, therapist, or another medical professional about how your mood is going and if you might be experiencing some degree of depression. This is not to say that most seniors are depressed, but we do recognize that the experience of declining health or mobility, plus the shrinking of one’s natural support system due to loss, can raise the sense of loneliness and despair.
In their toolkit for suicide prevention among seniors, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration identifies the following warning signs of suicide:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you experience any one or more of these behaviors, please reach out to your doctor or mental health professional they can listen to your thoughts and feelings around these matters.
From conducting one of the longest-running support groups at WelbeHealth in Stockton, Forever Friends, I can attest that not only do other seniors share your concerns, but they are ready to help out whenever possible
– Randall Ramírez, LCSW, LMFT | Behavioral Health Specialist
Strategies for Coping
As an alternative way of approaching the holidays, seniors can:
Becoming more proactive in planning ahead on how they want to celebrate the season and how they can build special celebrations or memorials around those loved ones who have passed on or who are distant from them.
This may include raising a toast at the holiday dinner table to the lost family member or friend and asking others to offer one cherished memory. Or it may involve setting a place for them at the table and reminiscing.
Making a Donation
It could also be as simple as setting up a spot to collect donations to the loved one’s favorite charity. All these approaches not only honor the person we lost, but they create a space for acknowledging our collective sadness and feelings.
We hold onto the belief that seniors retain talents, strengths, and skills into their later years that can be shared with others. Because seniors are living longer, we also support the idea of embracing quality of life and progressing with your dreams into the Golden Years. Joining a group that hosts activities, whether at a Senior Center or local club, aim at creating strong connections and bonds with fellow seniors.