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Beat the winter blues

How to stay fit physically and cognitively year-round

Created date

January 31st, 2014
Beat the winter blues
Beat the winter blues

Nearly everyone gets the “winter blues” now and then. The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold air nips at your nose, making isolation more common during winter months. But some people suffer from a more severe form of depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression, commonly sets in as the days grow shorter. Though studies have shown that SAD primarily affects younger people, in particular, women in their 20s to 40s, it can affect older adults, especially those isolated at home.

However, for those who deal with SAD, exercise and social interaction can help. 

“The winter blues can be warded off not only from physical activity, but from social activity as well,” says Ruth Phillips, sales counselor at Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J. “That’s why our community has more than 180 clubs and activities to help keep residents healthy and happy all year-round.”

To find out more, I turned to experts in aging: Susan Coulsan, sales counselor and former community resources manager at Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., and the community’s wellness manager, Judy Seger. Here are their recommendations for beating the winter blues:

Seabrook Sales Counselor Susan Coulson

Q: Seabrook has a ton of clubs and activities for residents to stay active and involved. How does staying social and active benefit older adults?

A: Staying active is the key for living a longer and healthier life. Whether you enjoy mentally stimulating discussion groups or going to the gym every day, you’ll find all that and more at Seabrook.  

Many older adults get isolated from their friends and family when they stay in their own home; they may no longer drive or the neighborhood may have changed. Here at Seabrook, getting out and enjoying any of our more than 125 groups and clubs is as easy as opening your door and walking down the hallway.

Q: Is there such a thing as “winter blues,” and how can staying involved in one or more of the activities at Seabrook help someone stay happier and more positive during winter? 

A: Many people do experience the winter blues. The days are shorter, and there are fewer hours of sunlight, which can contribute to feeling down.  

Here at Seabrook, where the entire community is climate-controlled, getting out and enjoying various activities every day is easy and makes you less likely to feel down from those winter blues. Even if there is a blizzard, you can still go to lunch with friends, to your group exercise class, or even swim in the pool and watch the flurries outside. You can still go on with your day-to-day life with little to no interruption.

Q: Do you find there is a significant benefit to living at Seabrook, where social activities are readily available, rather than isolated in one’s house, when it comes to health and happiness? 

A: Absolutely! I often hear from new residents that they should have moved sooner and left behind all the worries and work of their former house.  They love the opportunity to meet new people every day at dinner and enjoy the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and backgrounds. 

Safety-wise, it is incredibly beneficial to live at Seabrook because we have emergency pull cords in every apartment that will alert 24-hour on-site medical staff if you are in need of assistance. 

Everything we offer is comforting to residents’ families as well. They know their loved one is having fun, enjoying life, sharing their gifts with others, and living in a beautiful and safe place to enjoy it all.

Seabrook Wellness Manager Judy Seger

Q: We all know fitness helps us stay physically healthy. But how do fitness and group exercise classes, in particular, help older adults stay cognitively fit, too? 

A: Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain and the entire body, increasing endorphins—those “feel-good” hormones. 

The combination of aerobic exercise with strength training appears to have a greater effect on cognition than aerobic exercise alone, and activity should be performed for more than 30 minutes. Our group exercise classes are 40 minutes long and typically combine aerobic, strength, and balance training. 

The instructor is also able to push participants harder than they might push themselves if they were working out on their own to help them achieve greater levels of fitness. 

Also, regular socialization has been shown to help with memory, and group exercise provides that opportunity.

Q: Is there a social aspect to group fitness that makes people more likely to keep coming back to the fitness center, leading them to stay healthier and happier?

A: Absolutely! We offer a variety of different classes, from stretch and tone, dancercise, Zumba, and square dance to yoga, tai chi, and qigong. We also have water exercise classes in our aquatics center. 

There’s a class for almost everybody here, which helps drive motivation. Plus, it’s very social. Also, some people are just not self-motivated.  Having to be there at a certain day and time works for many people. 

Usually, a class is made up of a group of people who have similar interests, so a lot of them come together to class. That drives social motivation—friends encouraging friends to go to class and driving that sense of obligation or responsibility to go, not just for yourself but for your friends. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people.


Productive aging

Studies show that the experience and wisdom older adults have built up over the years make them more capable leaders, better able to create a greater sense of community overall. 

The community organizations at Seabrook offer opportunities for education, socialization, engagement, and enjoyment.

Here’s a small sampling of the more than 125 clubs and activities at Seabrook—activities for every interest: 


Ballroom dancing

Table tennis

Tai chi

Various card games

Investment Club

Knitting/crocheting clubs

Painting workshop and classes

Seabrook Performers


French Conversation Society

Yiddish Fun Club

Ceramics Club