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Why it is even more important to keep active during the dark days and long nights

Advice for carers

When autumn and winter come around, it's easy for older loved ones to fall into the habit of exercising and socialising less.

A study that involved more than 3,000 people across North America and France, examining trends in mental function in people, has found a marked difference in decline across the seasons of the year.

An article published in the British Medical Journal shows people with dementia are mentally more alert in summer and autumn, but mental function declines by the equivalent of almost five years in the winter and spring months. The number of dementia diagnoses also increases during the period.

Care UK dementia expert Suzanne Mumford said: “The summer and autumn are warm, and the long evenings make it easier to get out and about. Our muscles ache a bit less and we are full of optimism and energy.

“However, it is easy to see how people get fewer opportunities to exercise or socialise as much during the short, cold days and long, dark nights. The associated lack of movement, conversation and contact can impact on wellbeing, which is why our homes have an active programme of events during the day and evenings throughout the year.

“We invite children from local schools into our homes to take part in arts and crafts sessions and music events; we have pet therapy visits, with everything from chameleons and owls to alpacas and miniature horses; and we have trips to the theatres and participation in events such as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch event, all of which keep people active and engaged. We also keep people moving with activities that involving dancing, armchair aerobics and walks in the community.”

For those supporting loved ones in the community, Suzanne suggests:

  1. Remember that cold weather is not a bar to getting out and about, many of us will take a walk ‘to clear our heads’ or ‘get a bit of fresh air’ but do make sure your loved one is wrapped up in layers, allowing them to regulate their heat as they move from the indoors to the outdoors (having a coat or fleece by the back door can really help with getting outside spontaneously)
  2. Look for clubs where they can meet and chat with people, and help them to maintain social connections - whether as individuals or through churches and social groups
  3. Keep an eye out for entertainment at local cinemas that may interest them - new films, old films or even live, big-screen broadcasts of operas and ballets
  4. Contact your local Care UK home to see if they run day clubs or centres
  5. Download Care UK’s guide on how to organise fun and supportive days out for people living with dementia, Good to go.

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