Anthony Mele, director of Catholic Clinical Consultants, was happy to see a big turnout at a recent meeting of the Rhawnhurst Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.
Sixty or so senior citizens gathered at Rhawnhurst Presbyterian Church to hear Mele, a psychologist, speak on beating the winter and holiday blahs.
The seniors in attendance already are on their way to a happy holiday and winter, according to Mele.
“The biggest antidote to depression is social connections,” he said.
Mele offered what he called a “free consultation” for the NORC members, who ate lunch as he spoke and asked plenty of questions during the presentation.
In addition, he provided written tips for surviving the blahs. They included exercising, eating healthy, taking a class, volunteering, decorating for special occasions, taking part in activities that engage the brain and planning a fun activity for the future.
Mele encouraged the seniors to avoid being sedentary, even if it means walking in place while watching an exercise video.
“Exercise is a really, really good antidote for depression,” he said. “I’m not asking you to run a marathon. I’m not sure if Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda tapes are still around, but don’t underestimate exercise.”
Mele spoke about people experiencing a holiday for the first time after the loss of a loved one, whether it was a death or even someone with a severe case of Alzheimer’s disease.
Families with young children should not skip putting up a Christmas tree, he recommended, explaining that kids should be able to enjoy the holiday despite the loss of a parent.
It’s perfectly normal, he said, to send a card or wrap a gift for that loved one as part of the grieving and healing process.
“Make a symbolic act. Acknowledge the loss. Celebrate that person. It’s totally fine to do,” he said. “The challenge is to create new memories.”
Mele also touched on forgetfulness, differentiating it from Alzheimer’s or dementia. The brain ages, he explained, so it’s somewhat normal for an individual to put a pot on a stove and forget it’s there until smelling it or hearing the fire alarm ring.
“What’s not normal,” he said, “is to forget you even have a stove.”
A good idea to counter forgetfulness, he said, is to keep notes on index cards or a cell phone as reminders. Forgetful people should avoid isolating themselves and remain in social circles.
One woman said she has always had trouble remembering people’s names. Her antidote? Simply saying, “Yo,” anytime she recognizes a face but forgets the name.
In other news from the Nov. 29 meeting:
• ShopRite provided breakfast bags filled with cereal, tea and raisins for all in attendance.
• Rhawnhurst NORC will meet again on Thursday, Dec. 27, at noon, at Congregations of Ner Zedek, at 7520 Bustleton Ave. The guest speaker will be from Lutheran Settlement House’s caregiver support program.
The first meeting of 2013 will take place on Thursday, Jan. 24, at noon, at Samuel Tabas House, at 2101 Strahle St. There will be music, dancing, a hot lunch and cake. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org