How to Help Seniors Stay Socially Active During a Chicago Winter

Helping Seniors Stay Social During a Chicago Winter

In Health, News by Companions for Seniors

At Companions for Seniors, we’re proud to be owned and operated in Chicago, Illinois. This area is our home, and we love everything about it — except maybe the winter. Wintertime in Chicago means plummeting temperatures and lots of snow and ice, which can make life difficult for our elderly clients in many different ways. In addition to keeping their homes comfortable, dressing for the weather, and watching out for seasonal hazards, winter can also bring about intense feelings of loneliness and isolation — which make staying social all the more important!

Staying Social During a Chicago Winter: What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know

Oh, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago… As any local will tell you, Chicago is definitely a “winter wonderland.” The Chicago area receives inches upon inches of snow and ice each year, with temperatures rarely reaching above freezing for months at a time.

This season can be isolating, particularly for the elderly. Chicago’s extreme weather can make it harder for caregivers to be there in person, while also making it more difficult for older adults to go out and enjoy time in the community on their own. Meanwhile, low light and freezing temperatures can also contribute to seasonal affective disorder, or the “wintertime blues.” COVID-19 has also shuttered many local Chicago businesses and required strict public health measures, which can make it even more daunting to stay connected this season. 

During a long Chicago winter, it’s easy for seniors to start to feel cooped up, or suffer from “cabin fever.” Even in the best of times, many seniors report feeling socially isolated and lonely. Over time, this can take a serious toll on older adults’ health and quality of life. On the flip side, an enormous body of research has shown the positive health benefits of remaining social. Older adults who maintain strong social bonds generally enjoy better sleep, higher levels of happiness, less physical pain, more personal satisfaction, and even greater longevity. 

So, as a family caregiver, what can you do to help make sure the elderly adult in your life is able to stay social and connected, even during the frostiest months of the year? Here are five ways to help seniors stay social during a Chicago winter: 

1.) Look Into Local Companion Care Services

For older adults living in Chicago, companion care may be the perfect fit. Companion care is a flexible, affordable style of long-term care, designed to support older adults who are aging in place in the comfort and safety of home. In addition to providing practical help with everyday activities — such as laundry, driving, housekeeping, or dressing — companion care also focuses on providing the elderly with emotional support and friendship. 

Companion care is all about recognizing the importance of helping seniors to nurture meaningful relationships and connect with their community, while living an active and enriched lifestyle — during winter, spring, summer, or fall.

A senior companion offers invaluable friendship and emotional support for the elderly.  A companion is a friend, a confidant, and an ally, someone who can always be there to play games, share meals, go on outings, swap stories, take a walk around the block, or simply sit with the senior to listen to music or watch a beloved film. 

For caregivers, companion care offers confidence and peace of mind knowing that someone will always be there to give your loved one the support they need to live a more full and complete life — particularly when you cannot be there in person. 

2.) Help Your Loved One Stay Connected, Remotely

Here in Chicago, there are plenty of ways to help older adults stay connected with their friends, social groups, and loved ones, even when tough winter weather makes it hard to go out. 

Many of the remote communication options that have become so popular during the coronavirus pandemic can also be used to stay connected during a Chicago winter. You or a senior companion can help your loved one get set up with Zoom or Skype, for easy video calls with family. Write emails to one another, or send handwritten letters back and forth.

You can also help your loved one stay in touch with the community organizations they care about. Has their church or temple moved services online? Could the organization they volunteer with accept “virtual” volunteers during the winter? Could they benefit from in-home meal delivery services, instead of going out to eat? Look for ways to help your loved one maintain their social schedule, and you may be surprised by all the fun and flexible opportunities you’ll find. 

3.) Exchange Letters and Care Packages

What could be a cozier way to spend a winter evening in Chicago than by writing a letter to a dear friend or loved one? In addition to helping older adults stay connected with the people they care about, letter writing has been shown to have a variety of mental health benefits. 

You could also show your loved one how much they mean to you by sending over regular, thoughtful care packages loaded with their wintertime favorites — such as warm blankets, cans of their favorite healthy soup, hot cocoa mix, cards and pictures from the grandkids, and brand new winter hats and gloves.

4.) Prepare for Emergencies & Make Sure They Know Their Neighbors

In addition to helping your loved one stock up on supplies and prepare their winter emergency kit, it’s important to make sure they have local contacts who can check in with them and offer help during winter storms — particularly when you cannot get to your elderly loved one in person. 

During the fall season, take time to introduce yourself to your loved one’s neighbors and collect their contact information, so your loved one has someone nearby who they can reach out to in case of a cold snap or another wintry emergency. Neighbors may also be willing to pitch in and help your loved one get out of the cold if their heat goes out, or shovel their driveway after winter snowstorms. 

5.) Encourage Healthy, Nourishing Habits All Winter Long

While it’s easy to feel down in the dumps during an endless Chicago winter, this season can also be a wonderful opportunity to refocus on healthy habits that will set your loved one up for long-term health and happiness. There are plenty of daily habits that can actually lead to greater personal satisfaction and a more positive outlook, including exercising, getting enough rest, eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, and giving up unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol. Before the winter weather settles in, encourage your senior loved ones to connect with their healthcare providers for expert advice. Your loved one’s doctor can help them set a routine or goals to work toward during the winter. And all season long, be sure to check in, lend support and encouragement, and offer a sympathetic and attentive ear when needed. 

Want to Help Your Elderly Loved One Make the Most of Winter in Chicago? Companions for Seniors Can Help

Curious about other ways to help your senior loved one remain active and social during the winter months? Looking for caregiving and companionship services in the Chicagoland area? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Companions for Seniors! We’d be happy to be your sounding board, share our experience, and talk over any questions or concerns you may have about any aspect of caregiving for your aging loved ones.

Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help your family shoulder some of the responsibility of caring for an aging loved one. We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for those family caregivers who might need some support. We are based in Chicago, with services available locally in the city and surrounding suburbs.

Our companions help engage our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live a more active, independent, and enriched lifestyle while enjoying the freedom and flexibility of aging in place.

Have any questions about Companions for Seniors? Want to get in touch? If you live in the Chicago area, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020 or fill out our online contact form, available here.