Q: I know February is Black History Month. Is there anything going on in Winston-Salem to celebrate?

MA

Answer: Winston-Salem has a rich African American heritage with a variety of attractions celebrating black history and culture during February and beyond. If you are an art lover, there are currently two local art galleries hosting free exhibits featuring black artists. First, Winston-Salem State University’s Diggs Gallery is displaying, Playing the Changes: The Life & Legacy of Milt Hinton. The Diggs gallery is one of the top 10 African American art galleries in the nation and offers one of the largest exhibition spaces dedicated to African American arts in North Carolina. Visit WSSU.edu/Diggs or call 336-750-2458 for more information. The second local exhibit is great for people interested in textile arts, the Delta Fine Arts Center has an exhibit called Raw Edges 2: Textile Art by Area African American Quilters through March 30. For more information call 336-722-2625 or visit deltaartscenter.org.

Other free events include the Second African American Author Fair which is Feb. 22, at 2:30 p.m. at the Forsyth Central library. Local triad authors will discuss their work with a book signing to follow. Please contact Zeinab at 336-703-3020 or email at savagezv@forsyth.cc for more information. You can also learn more about African American history at the Black History Month Celebration happening Feb. 18 in the Atrium of Wake Forest Biotech Place. The local history and cultural fair begins at 11:30 a.m. and features a screening of, “I Am Not My Brother’s Keeper,” followed by a question and answer session. Visit innovationquarter.com for more information and a list of panelists.

Old Salem has a number of African American centered attractions including an African- American Heritage Group Tour available for a nominal fee. Old Salem’s St. Phillips African American church is one of North Carolina’s oldest standing African-American churches. The Museum of Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) is just a short walk from St. Phillips and is showcasing the handcrafted works of African Americans of the Early South. Old Salem’s horticulturalists share details of the Homowo (a West African word meaning “hooting at hunger”) Harvest Seed Collection. These seeds are native to Africa. Old Salem’s African American Heritage Tours are available for groups of 12 to 14 people and can be booked by appointment. For more information on all activities please visit OldSalem.org or call 336-721-7350.

The North Carolina Black Repertory is the state’s first professional Black theatre company and is committed to exposing audiences of all backgrounds to African American classic plays and performances. Typically, they present three to four productions annually and hosts the National Black Theatre Festival which draws more than 65,000 people to Winton-Salem every other summer. For ticket information and prices on upcoming shows visit ncblackrep.org or call 336-723-2266.

Q. My mother has seemed especially sad since the holidays. She hasn’t been going out as much or partaking in activities she usually enjoys. Is it normal for older adults to experience the winter blues?

HGS

Answer: For all of us feeling a bit blue may seem like an ordinary reaction to the fading glow of the holidays and the darker winter months, but when that feeling of sadness persists for more than a week or two, it could be a red flag — especially for seniors. Knowing when this is a temporary condition or something more serious, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression, is important. These conditions are types of depression that cycle with the seasons and are most common in the winter months. Luckily, recognizing the symptoms and taking action on a few simple things may be helpful.

People experiencing SAD may notice feelings of anxiety, the inability to concentrate, unintended weight loss or gain, social withdrawal, and irritability. SAD can also cause symptoms such as sadness, loss of energy, weepiness and fatigue.

A drop in serotonin, a key hormone that affects mood, is often at the root of seasonal depression. Our serotonin levels tend to dip as the amount of sunlight we receive throughout the day decreases during the winter months, which often results in one or more of these symptoms becoming more noticeable and/or severe. Older adults who do not get enough sunlight are more at risk of developing seasonal depression.

If you suspect that you or someone you are caring for is experiencing seasonal depression you can try to reduce or prevent the symptoms by opening blinds or drapes at home during the day. Other helpful ideas include engaging in fun activities such as playing games, going on short walks outside, exercising regularly, and spending time with family and friends. Remember to limit the intake of alcohol and sugary foods and drinks in your diet as this can help prevent SAD. A vitamin D deficiency can also cause fatigue and depression. Taking supplementary vitamin D, engaging in activities, watching your diet, as well as light therapy can be a winning combination for some older adults.

While these activities might help manage the symptoms of seasonal depression for some older adults, it is not guaranteed that these will be effective for everyone. If you feel your loved one’s symptoms are not responding or seem to worsen, it is important they are evaluated by a health care professional.

AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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