Blue Monday – the gloomy title bestowed on the third Monday in January; a combination of the post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.
For many, Blue Monday (January 20 this year), can heighten the feelings of festive forlornness and getting back into a routine – and this could include older people living alone and feeling isolated by the cold weather or lonely after family and friends return to work and school.
With Age UK suggesting that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day – greater emphasis is being placed on the wellbeing of our older population.
Around 3.6 million people in the UK live alone, says Age UK, and over two million of these are aged 75+. Statistics from the charity also suggest that 1.9 million people often feel invisible or ignored.
Heading towards retirement can trigger a fear of being lonely, say one in 10 over 55s according to independent research.
However, independent living among like-minded singles and couples choosing to move to age-exclusive retirement villages, is freezing out the blues – not only in January, but all year round.
Retirement Villages Group Ltd boasts 16 villages across the south of England, including Castle Village and Cedars Village both in Hertfordshire, where residents are living life to the full and heeding expert advice.
Some of the NHS’s top tips on beating the winter woes and how retirement village residents are keeping the blues at bay:
The villages have plenty of options to help residents look and feel their best – some have hairdressers and exercise areas to help maintain healthy hearts and minds. Professional instructors are sometimes invited into the villages to lead fitness classes, while at some villages, residents run their own fitness groups; including line dancing, aqua therapy, Pilates, Tai Chi and even armchair yoga!
There’s plenty to enjoy; whether a peaceful stroll around the beautifully manicured village gardens with their landscaped borders, or outdoor activities at the tennis courts, bowling and putting greens. Many of the villages’ locations lend themselves to countryside surroundings with an abundance of wildlife to enjoy – popular with those residents who enjoy photography or rambling/walking.
Fresh ingredients and locally sourced produce are often on the menu at villages which have their own restaurants and their own chefs producing healthy and hearty lunches and snacks for residents. Themed events – like supporting National Sausage Week and helping to make Christmas puddings – reinforces the social aspect of healthy eating enjoyment.
Take up a new hobby
Great to keep the brain active and the fingers nimble – the NHS says taking up a new hobby can ward off symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). At retirement villages, there is an abundance of classes and groups set up and run by residents; including blog writing, knitting, crafting, Bridge, snooker, computing and choirs!
Many retirees also find it enormously rewarding to volunteer their time or skills to chosen charitable organisations, including coffee mornings for Macmillan Cancer Support or craft fayres for local air ambulance charities.
See your friends and family
It has been shown that socialising is good for your mental health! Each retirement village has its own identity, but all have one very important thing in common; and that is the social element – whether residents choose to join in a lot or a little. Open days and charity events held at the villages also give retirees the chance to share their experiences with and show off their lifestyle to visitors and family members.
Family members often stay with residents, with grandchildren in particular enjoying all that the villages have to offer. At one village, a resident’s apartment is referred to as ‘Nanny’s hotel’ by her grandchildren!
Sarah Burgess, group sales and marketing director for Retirement Villages Group Ltd said: ‘Keeping active, both physically and mentally, is one of the most important keys to staying healthy as you age.
‘Part of this is maintaining social connections and regularly spending time with friends and family, or participating in groups and activities that facilitate social interaction and physical exercise. This helps keep your body limber and your mind sharp in later life, making for a relaxing and fulfilling retirement.
‘The winning combination of our villages, the lifestyle they offer, and the residents who live there is certainly a remedy for the blues, in winter or at any time of the year!’