Mount professor discusses aging and the holidays
December 15, 2016
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Lawrence Force, Mount Saint Mary College psychology
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but Christmas can also be a
difficult time for aging family members, said Mount Saint Mary
College psychology professor Lawrence Force.
Force, a gerontologist, is director of the college’s Center on
Aging and Policy. He has worked in the field of aging and
disabilities for more than three decades as an administrator,
clinician, and educator. He has authored and collaborated on books,
articles, and technical reports that address topics of aging
policy, Alzheimer's disease, family caregiving, and end-of-life
“Holidays are a time of tradition, family and reflection, and
there’s a lot of value and strength in that,” said Force.
Reminiscing about Christmases past “can have a positive outcome,
but it can also churn up some negative feelings.”
The paradigm holds true for people of all backgrounds, but Force
points out that the older one gets, the greater the chance for the
loss of a spouse or other loved one during the course of the year,
which can influence the holidays. Families could also experience
other changes in dynamics, including marriage or divorce.
Thinking about unpleasant or stressful life changes can cast a
dark shadow over what was once an enjoyable holiday.
Force suggests that there might be another reason for feeling
down during the holidays – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in
which an individual who otherwise has normal mental health
experiences symptoms of depression based on the time of year. One
possibility is that SAD is related to a lack of the biochemical
serotonin, which is thought to be a contributor to feelings of
well-being and happiness.
Because sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin in one’s
body, winter’s shorter days might be partly to blame for changes in
According to Force, a therapy lamp – which emulates natural
light – might help push away the holiday blues. Daytime walks might
also help seniors (and other family members) to feel better.
Force also suggests drinking more water and getting more