With the holiday season fast approaching, Ruth Ann Beideman, Intake Director for the Milford Senior Center says that this time of year can be very difficult for seniors. Although the holidays are considered a festive period for many, Mrs. Beideman says that seniors sometimes deal with depression, especially if they have just lost a loved one or are dealing with financial problems.
“Many seniors live alone, most on a fixed income, and this can make the holiday season especially difficult,” Ms. Beideman explained. “They often want to do what they have always done when it comes to gift giving, preparations and decorating, but they find it more difficult now that they are older. Many times, seniors do not have family members close by that can help them through this period.” Ms. Beideman said that if the senior does not find a holiday program or dinner they can attend, they spend the holiday alone in their home, and this can increase depression among a population that already has a higher incidence of depression.
“Unfortunately, health conditions could mean the elderly person cannot travel to where family is, and if their family members who do not live close are also struggling financially, they may not be able to come to the senior,” Mrs. Beideman explained. “Vacation time is limited and, unfortunately, there are instances where the younger generation simply does not take the time to spend it with an elderly person during the holidays, or any time through the year.”
The Milford Senior Center attempts to remedy that situation by providing resources to senior citizens to keep them active, helping them find reduced cost medical treatments, and even connecting them with agencies who can provide fuel and nutrition needs. Mrs. Beideman says that she has helped seniors with almost everything imaginable, including explaining letters they receive in the mail that may confuse them. She also says that the current trend to complete everything online is a hinderance to seniors, many of whom do not own computers, or if they do, can only perform basic tasks.
“Some of those we have helped do not even know how to get to a website, so we offer them assistance in completing any online form,” Mrs. Beideman explained. She also said that there is a paralegal who visits the Senior Center once each month to provide information on advanced directives, power of attorney, and wills. In addition, a representative from the Food Bank visits the center once each month, and by appointment at other times, to discuss benefits available through their agency for seniors. Mrs. Beideman says she helps the program by pre-screening those who qualify for the program.
“Seniors often do not like to discuss financial matters, but when they need financial assistance, the only way we can help is through government or charitable groups that provide that help, and they often rely on financial data to determine eligibility,” Mrs. Beideman says. “It is important that seniors not be embarrassed when they need help as that is what we are here to provide for them.”
For seniors who may not have family nearby, tips to help avoid being alone on a holiday include inviting friends who live locally and may have no family nearby for a holiday meal. Volunteering at a food shelter or local church is another way to avoid depression on the holidays. Many times such places provide free meals to the homeless, and this will allow seniors to get out and socialize with other volunteers. Especially for seniors who have recently lost spouses, being down during the holidays is normal, but it is important to recognize the signs of serious depression and get help immediately if they begin to entertain thoughts of suicide. For more information on assistance available at the Milford Senior Center, call 422-3385, or visit the center at 111 Park Avenue in Milford.