Helping senior citizens in the east during the holidays

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Mental health experts say a growing number of senior citizens experience depression during the holidays, but there is hope.

An organization in the east is making sure senior citizens don’t feel lonely this time of year.

The North Carolina Association of Senior Citizens Clubs held its annual Christmas celebration at the Eppes gym in Greenville on Friday.

The event included more than 150 elderly men and women from counties including Beaufort, Bertie, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hartford, Martin and Pitt.

Ethel Lytle says because some seniors feel isolated during the holidays and all throughout the year, the group took action.

“What we did is we said, why don’t you just come as a visitor, we’ll pick you up, we’ll get somebody to come with you and see how you like it and if you do that and tell us what you’re interested in or what can help you we would be glad to work together with you.”

ECU Health Clinical Health Psychologist, Dr. Ashley J. Britton recommends any senior citizen who is experiencing loneliness to incorporate exercise and a healthy diet into their daily lifestyle to improve mood, cognitive function and physical well-being.

James Jones says he enjoys participating in all the group activities and one in particular. “And I enjoyed meeting the senior citizens from different locations across North Carolina, sharing information and fellowshipping together and brainstorming about different things we could do as senior groups across, within our communities.”

A survey by AARP finds that 31 percent of senior citizens say they have felt lonely during the holiday season.

Lytle says, “And so I say to anyone whether it’s a older person or it’s a person who can’t even get out by themselves, please contact somebody, call someone. “

Health officials say seniors may feel lonely when they face the loss of a partner, retire or miss the day-to-day contact with their friends.