Date: March 26, 2021

Author: Kathleen Boziwick


Some people get depressed in the winter. Perhaps it’s fewer daylight hours, perhaps the cold contributes. Winter depression is called “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD, for short.

Back in the 1980s, science discovered that light boxes, which employed numerous bright light bulbs were effective at treating SAD. SAD patients found that spending thirty or more minutes a night next to these boxes substantially helped lift the dark mental winter cloud.

But what about the people who are depressed all year? Many of them are over 65. In fact, by some estimates, ten percent of the elder population suffer from some kind of depression.

Light Therapy For Year-round Depression

Interestingly, science experiments are discovering that light therapy may be useful to depressed seniors year round. This has huge and happy applications for many seniors for whom drug and talk therapy have yielded few results.

One study, conducted in a nursing home, found that exposure to very bright, white light and lower wattage red light had good effects on depressed residents. The good news, for caregivers of seniors aging in place, is that you can replicate these results in your parent’s home.

Light therapy Is Often As Easy As Taking a Walk

The easiest and most affordable light therapy is a walk around the neighborhood or a lovely park in the daylight. Even as few as thirty minutes a day of exposure to bright sunlight can yield therapeutic results, especially if your senior gets to walk with a likeable companion. Thirty minutes is the minimum therapeutic time it takes to benefit from light therapy.

If you don’t have time to walk with your senior, professional senior care aides are available to help. Senior care professionals provide a range of services, many of them aimed at treating social isolation and depression which go hand in hand.

Light Therapy Technology

If, however, your senior cannot go outside or if the weather is too rotten for taking a walk, technology can bridge the gap. There are numerous devices that deliver light therapy. Many of these devices are brilliantly evolved past the cumbersome lightbox of the 1980s.

The New York Times is on record claiming that the best light therapy lamp is the Carex Day-Light Classic Plus. NYT praises the affordability and light delivery of this device. The Carex’s broad face emits light safely and efficiently in a thirty minute session.

Light therapy equipment is readily available at Walgreens and Wal-Mart. And it’s easy for caregivers to order such equipment online.

Patients sometimes get good results from light therapy within three days, but your mother or father needs to give light therapy at least two weeks to know whether it is working.

In conclusion, light therapy was once considered the gold standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder. But now, it’s becoming clear that it may be effective for non-seasonal depression as well. Each depressed individual is different. Some seniors will get better results from light therapy than others. However, considering how often pharmacological treatment fails depressed seniors, light therapy is well worth trying.


Date: March 26, 2021