Health Senior Living

Author: Jerome Reid (page 1 of 64)

5 mental health tips for seniors

As we age, it’s important to monitor both physical and mental health. Isolation, decreased mobility and other issues that may accompany old age can all have an effect on mental health. There are, however, many ways to combat mental health issues. With proper care and awareness, seniors can stay healthy longer. Here are a few tips on how to stay mentally healthy during the golden years.

1. Stay social
Socializing and staying connected with the outer world helps those of all ages fight off depression. Considering the risks of isolation for seniors, it’s particularly important to stay engaged with the world around you. Try setting a schedule to call a friend or family members regularly, taking part in events at assisted living centers, getting together with friends, volunteering in the community, or joining a book club or other social group.

Today, there are more ways than ever to stay connected. Search online – or ask for help from family or friends to look online – for group gatherings and community activities that appeal to you. Group activities can include associations for military veterans, outings to museums, trips to local botanical gardens or outings to the movies.

You can also use email and Facebook to stay connected with friends and family and to look for volunteer opportunities.

However, keep in mind studies have shown that nothing beats face-to-face contact with others in staving off and alleviating depression. These gatherings can help shake off the mental cobwebs and refresh your mood.

2. Exercise
The benefits of exercise are numerous – fitness keeps your heart healthy and your muscles limber. If you’re looking for another reason to take a walk around the block, consider the mental health benefits.

Numerous studies have shown the link between exercise and mental fitness. Getting your heart rate up can help relieve mild depression, anxiety and stress. If you’re homebound or in a wheelchair, there are still gentle exercise options available to keep up your strength. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise on the brain, a set exercise schedule can fit in as a part of your daily routine, which helps keep you active and mentally organized.

There’s also something to be said for the sense of accomplishment you can gain by prioritizing your health and finishing a fitness routine.

Consult your doctor before embarking on a fitness plan.

3. Play games
Break out the crossword puzzle and have a little brain-challenging fun. The brain needs exercise, too, and puzzles, logic, math and word games all can help the brain to stay healthy as you age.

Games give seniors something to focus on and stretch the memory. Take crossword puzzles, for instance. These popular puzzles may seem run-of-the-mill, but in fact test your memory (who played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, again?), combining word games with counting and spatial reasoning.

Sudoku is a great option if you’re looking to brush up on number games, and jigsaw puzzles or a game of gin rummy can be done with or without company. Extra points for a group game, which brings together elevated brain activity with socialization.

4. Watch out for early signs
You keep track of your blood pressure and dutifully take your medication every day. Apply these same tactics to tracking your – or your family member’s – mental health. Even if you exercise daily, socialize and play games, genetics and life situations may cause mental health issues, and that’s OK.

If you notice yourself experiencing sadness lasting more than a few days at a time, lethargy, a desire to isolate, anxiety or deteriorating memory or language skills, take these warning signs seriously and follow the next tip.

5. Talk to your doctor
Everyone, young and old, is susceptible to mental health issues. There’s nothing to be ashamed of – treat it as seriously as you would any other chronic illness that can interrupt your life. Start by talking to your doctor.

In general, your physician should be on the alert for mental health issues, but it’s also up to you to talk about any concerns you may have. Talk to your doctor about any shifts in mood, anxiety, trouble sleeping or any other behavior you’ve noticed in yourself or a loved one. These illnesses are treatable – your doctor may prescribe you medication, suggest therapy or another option.

Often, a combination of medication and therapy – which provides another social experience for you to speak with a professional or group about life’s challenges and your experiences – can work wonders for depression and anxiety. If you’ve never gone to therapy before, think of it as another new experience you can take on, and one that can change your life for the better.

These are your golden years – help make them as enjoyable as possible.

8 Mental Health Tips for Seniors or the Elderly

Aging is inevitable, and significant life changes are expected as you age. There’s retirement or your kids having their own busy lives. Then there are more challenging aspects, and you start experiencing physical health problems, feelings of isolation, mental health conditions, or the death of a loved one.

All of these can pose a challenge to the mental health of seniors. Luckily, we gain important traits like adapting, resilience, and wisdom as we grow older. Seniors possess these traits that help them adapt to their life’s challenges and age gracefully.

A shout-out to all seniors out there: you’ve got this! You’ve been through many life’s challenges, and this is your time to enjoy your retirement, play with your grandkids, and explore new things. To age gracefully and live life to the fullest, here are eight mental health tips for seniors you can follow. 

Mental Health Tips for Seniors

1. Start Your Day Right

Start your day right with positive affirmation, a smile, prayer, and a bit of stretching. Positive affirmations to kick-start your day can help reduce stress, increase confidence, and keep your mental health intact.

As the Buddha said, “What we think, we become.” How can you start your day with positive affirmations? Repeat the following to yourself every day:

  • “I am living the best years of my life.”
  • “Today is going to be a great day.”
  • “Every day, I find happiness and comfort.”

You can hang a picture frame or painting of this in your room. Or maybe place a note on your bedside table. Starting your day right with these tips can help you have a great day.

2. Exercise Regularly

Now more than ever, exercise is very important for older adults to stay physically and mentally healthy. A 20-minute walk with your dog is a great exercise, or you can do yoga and meditation. If it helps, join tai chi classes, play tennis, enroll yourself in water aerobics, or find an exercise buddy.

One study recommends that older adults over the age of 65 have at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. During exercise, the body releases the happy hormone called endorphins. This helps relieve stress, makes you feel happy, improves sleep, and helps keep mental well-being intact.

3. Stay Connected With Friends and Family Members

Retirement and your kids living their own busy lives are inevitable, and both can increase the risk of social isolation or loneliness in older adults. To cope with loneliness, stay connected with family and friends.

Visit them as often as you can, volunteer to babysit your grandchildren, join a book club, or stay connected through social media. There may be social distancing restrictions for some activities due to the pandemic, but you can always resort to video conference calls. Always keep in touch with your loved ones because this is essential in taking care of your mental health.

4. Keep Yourself Busy

Have you seen the movie The Intern starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway? Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) lives alone and is retired. His wife just died, and kids and grandkids live in another city, but he’s coping with the loneliness and isolation brought about by his circumstances.

What does Ben Whittaker do every day to cope with living alone? He joins tai chi classes in the park and goes to the coffee shop every morning. Eventually, he joined the intern program of Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) to keep himself busy.

The Intern is a great depiction of the everyday life of older adults. Keeping yourself busy with new hobbies and social interactions is good for your mental health.

5. Get a Pet

There are plenty of benefits to taking care of a pet. It helps seniors stay active and busy and offers comfort and companionship. Seniors who take care of pets like dogs and cats have better mental health, are happier, have reduced stress and anxiety, and are motivated every day.

The companionship of a pet may help seniors feel loved. Keeping a pet is also a great way to stay active. Other benefits of taking care of a pet are lower blood pressure and decreased feelings of isolation or loneliness.

6. Start a Creative Project or Hobby

Your senior years are a great time to start a new project or hobby. According to one study, seniors who take on projects or start new hobbies have overall better mental health than those who don’t.

Being able to look forward to something every day gives a person a sense of fulfillment. Rather than watching TV all day, seniors will feel more productive with new projects or hobbies.

Examples of creative activities and hobbies that stimulate the minds of older adults are knitting, painting, writing, scrapbook making, gardening, or even minor repairs at home. Seeing the product of your creativity gives you the sense of fulfillment you may miss feeling after retiring.

7. Keep an Active Mind

Staying intellectually active, especially during the senior years, has many positive impacts on mental health. By keeping an active mind, many parts of the brain get activated. Intellectually challenging activities like reading, playing chess, answering crossword puzzles, learning a new language, or playing Sudoku are not only fun; they boost brain activity and function as well.

Have you noticed other seniors who have sharp minds? They don’t get to keep that intellectual brain without exercising it. Having an active mind is like a vitamin for the brain. It helps reduce the risk of memory problems and boosts overall mental health. 

8. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Well

As with any age, getting enough sleep and eating right is always essential for mental well-being. Seniors are more prone to sickness, so not getting enough sleep or eating well may lead to physical and mental health issues.

Seniors are highly encouraged to practice healthy habits, and sleeping 7–9 hours at night is important. Sugary foods and refined carbohydrates are strongly discouraged. Instead, vegetables, high-fiber fruits, and whole-grain foods are recommended for seniors to feel more energetic and stay physically and mentally healthy. 

Conclusion

Without a healthy body and mind, seniors can develop physical or mental ailments. By doing your best to take care of your mental health, you will appreciate how beautiful life can be. Aging gracefully has never been this good. Surely, you want to explore many things in life, and now is the best time to do it.

If you want to learn more tips on how to take care of your mental health, try the telehealth counseling offered by SeniorMentalHealth.org . Aside from the valuable tips you will get in each session, you can enjoy talking to a mental health professional when you need someone to talk to.

3 WAYS TO BOOST MENTAL HEALTH IN SENIORS

Help older adults maintain their health and well-being with three ways to boost mental health

Major changes that often happen later in life can increase the chances that an older person will be affected by depression or mental health issues. To help older adults maintain their health and well-being, Senior Mental Health shares three ways to boost their mental health.

Helping an older loved one stay mentally happy and healthy can sometimes be a challenge. 

Depression and mood disorders are often associated with aging, but this doesn’t mean an older loved one is bound to develop mental health issues – especially if they engage in activities that help keep their spirits high and their mind strong.

Usually, having something to look forward to gives an older person a reason to get up and/or get out of the house.

It could be lunch with a child or family member, catching up with friends, attending a wedding, or entertaining an out-of-town visitor.

To avoid upsetting or putting your older adult on the defensive, don’t present these activities as mental health exercises, simply offer them as fun ways to connect with family, friends, and nature.

Here are three great ways to boost an older loved one’s mental health.

1. Taking a nature break

According to the American Psychological Association, research is helping us understand how being in nature can improve mental health and sharpen cognition. 

Many studies show that being in nature, or even looking at images of nature, reduces stress and helps memory and mood.  

Ways to enjoy nature with an older loved one can include short walks at a local park, a visit to a local arboretum or botanical garden, or even just sitting on a bench or chair outside on a nice day.

While being outdoors is the simplest way to enjoy nature, it’s not always possible due to overly hot or cold temperatures or if someone has very limited mobility.

In these cases, explore other ways to enjoy nature from inside their home.

For example, bring in plants or flowers that are easy to care for, place bird feeders outside a window, or get a table-top terrarium that requires minimal care.

2. Playing word games or working on simple puzzles

If your senior loved one is able to enjoy playing games like Scrabble, work on crossword puzzles, or do jigsaw puzzles, these are great ways to have fun and boost mental health at the same time.

To make sure they’ll be enjoyable and satisfying, choose games that match your older adult’s abilities.

For seniors with cognitive impairment, try simplified word games and specially-designed jigsaw puzzles that better suit their current abilities.

For example, you could have an ongoing jigsaw puzzle with a loved one that you both work on during visits so they can enjoy your company and get a little mental workout as well.

Bingo is another popular game that you or your family can play with your older adult. It’s fun and can be played with two people or a larger group.

3. Learning a new skill or revisiting an old talent

Many older adults enjoyed art and hobbies when they were younger and may enjoy starting up a new hobby that incorporates their former skills.

Art classes are a great way to bring out the artistic side of your loved one.

Painting, sketching, or sculpting all offer an artistic outlet and also improve hand-eye coordination, in addition to boosting mental health.

Music is another great way to lift spirits. Studies show that it can also improve mood and increase happiness among older adults. 

Maybe your older adult used to sing for pleasure or play an instrument. They might enjoy picking up those hobbies again or they might like going to a concert or watching musicals on TV.

Singing along at a musical concert is another way to bring back happy memories. Taking your loved one to musical events (or watching one together online or on TV) is another way to offer a mental health boost and enjoy each other’s company, too.

Recommended for you:

Guest contributor: Carol Nelson​, RN, BSN, MBA, is Healthcare Solutions​ Manager for FirstLight ​Home Care.​ ​​With ​more than 35 years of experience ​in Medicare and private duty home care services, ​​hospice​ and palliative care, and ​assisted ​living​ management, Carol has a heart for service and a dedication to the health and well-being of older adults. 

10 Simple Ways Seniors Can Boost Mental Health & Well-Being

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four older adults experiences some sort of mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, and dementia. And strikingly, this number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030!
Nonetheless, incorporating these simple ways to boost senior’s mental health and well-being can help deter the rising statistics and improve quality of life amidst the elderly population.

0 SIMPLE WAYS TO BOOST SENIORS’ MENTAL HEALTH

1. Fuel the Brain

Diet not only impacts the body physically, but can influence senior’s mental health for better or for worse…

Embracing a heart-healthy, balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats has proven promote brain health, even with potential to mitigate against depression and reduce dementia risk.

But eating a balanced diet does not have to be difficult… One of the best things to make life easier (and healthier) for the elderly is by utilizing Silver Cuisine!

Created for seniors in mind, Silver Cuisine is an a la cart meal delivery service providing well-balanced meals straight to doorsteps. (No grocery shopping, meal prepping, kitchen cleanup required – just nutritious and delicious meals to quickly heat up and enjoy!) 

2. Move the Body

Whereas exercise is mostly known for its physical benefits, it is also an essential mental health activity. Exercise boosts mood by increasing endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain and reduces stress hormones, proving to be a remedy for managing both depression and anxiety!

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week and incorporate various forms of movement, including cardio, resistance training, balance exercises or try this Summer Workout Challenge.

Want to get a little more social? Try group exercise as a fun way to get 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day. Plus, group exercise also comes with a number of other benefits as well!

But the most importance is not necessarily on the type of activity itself, just that you are moving the body! 

3. Go Outside

Even if just for 20 minutes, go outside! A short bout of the great outdoors can instantly boost mood and energy levels.

Getting outside also supplies vitamin D, with a deficiency of the “sunshine” vitamin being been linked to higher rates of depression and cognitive impairment. And with seniors more susceptible vitamin D deficiency, getting outside more often can deter such risks.

4. Stay Involved with Family

Keep family ties strong by staying involved with loved ones, as sustaining such connections has shown contribute to a number of physical and mental benefits.

Have fun exploring at the nature center with siblings, passing along a favorite recipe to children, and gardening with grandchildren.

5. And with Friends

Along with staying actively involved with family members, remain connected with peers.

Invite friends to get hair or nails done, see a movie, take a shopping trip, or over for dinner on a regular occasion.

6. Connect with the Community

Connecting with others extends beyond close circles and there are numerous community-based organizations seniors can take advantage of.

Exploring adult day care programs, local civic centers, volunteer work, and faith-based groups are valuable socialization opportunities.

7. Consider A Pet

But socializing is and can be much more than human interaction… The benefits of elderly owning a pet are quite impressive and include reduced feelings of isolation and depression and increased feelings of motivation and security.

And not to mention, the benefits are not just one-sided. Think about it: Seniors who adopt a pet are providing their new furry companion with a new shot of a loving life! 

8. Take Advantage of Technology

Though the senior population may have not grown up with the internet, the Pew Research Center reports internet use among those aged 65 years or older grew a whopping 150 percent between 2009 and 2011!

Taking advantage of technology allows seniors to connect with loved ones, explore entertainment, and research and learn new things, especially if they cannot regularly leave home.

9. Busy the Brain

Busying the brain can significantly boost seniors’ mental health and lessen the risk of dementia by sharpening memory, speeding up information processing, and improving reasoning and cognition.

Partake in at least 30 minutes of mind-stimulating activities daily, including piecing together puzzles, reading a book, learning how to play an instrument, playing board and card games, working on crossword puzzles, creating crafts, cooking in the kitchen, and organizing the closet.

Playing games with others can also busy the brain and simultaneously encourage socialization!

10. Sleep

Sleep plays an integral part of mental health and according to the American Psychology Association, more sleep can lead to happier, healthier, longer, and safer lives.

Alas, seniors are at increase risk of sleep disturbances and insomnia, which increases the risk of depression and other chronic diseases. So if struggling to achieve the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, these 10 ideas to help cure insomnia can foster a better night’s rest.

5 ways to boost mental health in seniors

Taking care of your mental health becomes increasingly important as you age. Like your body, your brain is a muscle that needs to be strengthened and taken care of.

For World Mental Health Day, we gathered our top five ways to boost mental health in seniors.

Taking care of your mental health becomes increasingly important as you age. Like your body, your brain is a muscle that needs to be strengthened and taken care of.

mental health through senior companionship

What is mental health?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that one in five US adults struggle with a mental health condition each year. But what exactly is mental health, and how can you take care of yours?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Mental health isn’t one size fits all. A senior’s mental health can be shaped by a variety of factors: their biology, their social life, if they belong to a marginalized group, their financial situation, or their lifestyle choices. It can also be a combination of those things.

The most common mental health disorders are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia disorders

If you are struggling with your mental health, we recommend talking to a doctor, psychologist, or mental health practitioner about potential treatments. 

While more serious mental health conditions are incurable, research suggests that small changes to your lifestyle can make a difference. Here are five strategies to build better mental health in your everyday life.

1. Take care of your physical health

Getting physical activity is a key part of maintaining good mental health. Studies have shown that engaging in aerobic exercises, like walking, jogging, swimming, gardening, or dancing can help reduce blood pressure, alleviate anxiety and depression, and improve cognitive function. 

As a senior, you should aim to get at least two or three hours of physical activity each week, or 15 to 20 minutes each day to see the benefits.

On top of the physical benefits, having a consistent exercise program improves mental health by being a welcome distraction in the day. It gives you something to do or somewhere to go, which in turn, can build up your self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Seniors who exercise also reported better sleep habits and higher levels of energy and stamina throughout their day. Who doesn’t like waking up feeling well-rested?

2. Nourish your body with a healthy diet

A healthy diet is linked to better health outcomes generally, but it’s especially important for maintaining seniors’ mental health.

Making poor eating choices can negatively impact your brain health. Foods that are high in fats or refined sugars weaken your body’s ability to regulate insulin—which can lead to inflammation and an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. 

Swapping out overly processed, refined foods for whole grains and healthy fats is an easy way to improve your mood and build better cognitive function. Diets that are rich in vegetables, leafy greens, or fermented food, like the Mediterranean or Japanese diet, improve nutrient absorption from food; activating certain neural pathways between the brain and the gut. A well-balanced meal could include:

  • Lots of vegetables and dark leafy greens
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, Kefir, or miso
  • Whole grains
  • Organic meat and wild-caught fish

3. Maintain social connections

Sometimes, improving your mental health is as simple as calling up a friend or family member for a chat. Humans are social animals, and although your circle of friends and family may decline as you age, social interaction is still important to your overall wellbeing.

How many social connections you have mattered less than the type and quality of those relationships. Having deep and meaningful connections can give seniors a sense of purpose and bring joy and contentment to their day. 

While strong social bonds have a positive influence on brain health and function, by contrast there’s evidence that loneliness increases the risk of cognitive decline.

Some ways to add more social activity to your life include:

  • Find group activities at your local senior center
  • Encourage home visits from friends or family
  • Hang out in the front garden and engage passers-by
  • Take steps to rebuild distant relationships

If you’re a senior in a more remote area or have trouble leaving your home to do activities, a companionship care service might be a useful solution. A qualified expert caregiver can visit a few times a week to keep you company, assist with chores like cooking or cleaning, or simply lend a friendly ear.

4. Stress management

The amount of stress you experience correlates to your physical and mental health. Even if you retired years ago, situations like losing a loved one, financial uncertainty, family feuds, or watching too much bad news on TV can all add undue stress to your life.

As you age, managing this stress becomes a key part of maintaining strong mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, signs of stress in seniors are:

  • Problems switch sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling pressured or rushed
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Irritability and moodiness

Adding relaxation techniques into your usual routine can help reduce the negative mental health consequences of too much stress.

If you’re looking for new stress-relieving activities, here are a few ideas:

Meditation: Taking just five minutes a day to close your eyes, shut out the whole world, and meditate has multiple health benefits. Meditation has even been shown to improve mental resilience, helping you build immunity against stressful situations.

Yoga: As one of the oldest physical practices in the world, yoga can help you form a better mind-body connection, relaxes the mind, and improve concentration and awareness. Keeping up a regular yoga practice significantly lowers levels of anxiety.

Puzzles: Games like crosswords or sudoku require focused concentration. This can help seniors get into a relaxed flow state and provide positive mental stimulation. A jigsaw puzzle serves a similar role. Focusing on a single image without letting other thoughts enter your brain decreases stress and improves cognition.
Plus, with free apps designed specifically for stress management and mindfulness, it’s easier than ever to stay cool, calm, and collected.

5. Finding a Sense of purpose

A sense of purpose is like a guiding light. It shines bright on things that align with your values and goals for living and leads you toward an existence full of meaning and intention. It’s what keeps seniors fulfilled and mentally stimulated, even when faced with challenging situations.

It also has lots of mental health benefits. In a study of almost 7000 adults between the ages of 51 and 61, those without a purpose were much more likely to die before their purposeful peers.

The following behaviors can help seniors find their purpose:

Keep working: You don’t have to stay in a salaried job to find meaning. Many seniors find fulfillment in volunteer work, personal projects, or home improvement.

Find small pleasures: Whether you enjoy a hot cup of tea by the fire or the view on a hilltop, noticing moments of joy and gratitude is great for mental health.…

10 Easy Ways Seniors Can Boost Their Mental Health and Well-Being

senior mental health

Caring for a pet can help seniors stay more socially engaged and can make them feel less depressed and agitated.Getty Images

A challenged brain is a happy brain. So when the kids are grown and you’ve retired from your job, you could find yourself struggling a bit to stay busy and engaged, and you might feel depressed.

You wouldn’t be alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that more than 6.5 million American seniors suffer from depression. Seniors living independently have the lowest risk for depression, with the condition affecting about 1 to 5 percent of this group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But at the other end of the spectrum, about 13.5 percent of those who require in-home help, and about 11.5 percent of seniors who are hospitalized, experience depression.

Despite these numbers, depression in seniors is frequently overlooked, according to Jaza Marina Brown, MD, a geriatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta. And that’s often because the symptoms may look like they stem from a different disease. For instance, weight loss and poor appetite may seem like a gastrointestinal problem, and problems with daily functioning could seem like a case of arthritis, Dr. Brown says.

RELATED: How to Live a Purposeful Life After Retirement

Struggles with physical health can lead to problems with mental health for seniors, says Mustafa M. Husain, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Physical illnesses may contribute to depression, or vice versa.

Staying physically healthy, socially active, and mentally engaged as you age are keys to boosting senior mental health, experts agree. For instance:

1. Just Keep Moving

Exercise is essential for both the body and mind, Brown says. Go for a daily walk or join a senior exercise class at a nearby Y, gym, or senior center. If you have physical limitations, try chair exercises. If you’re physically able, try a dance class. A study published in August 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that just one 60-minute dance class a week led to significant improvements in depression symptoms.

2. Socialize at Your Senior Center

“Senior centers offer a variety of classes — from crafts and hobbies to computer classes — to keep the mind interested and active,” Brown says. Some also offer transportation to those who need it. Top ArticlesREAD MOREStay Active, Healthy, and Strong in Your SeniorYears | Everyday Healthhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.496.0_en.html#goog_1089760959https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.496.0_en.html#goog_1867684643https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.496.0_en.html#goog_370323794

3. Stay Involved in Family Gatherings

Find ways to be included and visit often with family, especially grandchildren. Keep visits short if you get tired, Dr. Husain says, and make sure you’re just there to enjoy their company rather than be a babysitter.

4. Call on Friends

Stay connected with your peers. Get your hair done together, go on a shopping trip even if it’s just to the grocery store, or have them over for dinner. The social stimulation will do you all good, Brown says.

5. Turn to Technology to Stay in Touch

Schedule regular phone calls to catch up with loved ones, and send snail mail or email letters, cards, and photos. Try Skype or FaceTime for a video call. Create a memory book with your grandchildren and share it with the entire family.

6. Go Back to School

Challenge your brain by taking a class at your local community college; many are free or offered at a very low cost, Brown says. Try a literature class or study another language, and look for online classes if you can’t leave home.

7. Get a Pet

Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, caring for a pet can be helpful, Husain says. Animals make seniors more socially engaged, less depressed, and less agitated, according to a review of research on animal therapy published in November 2014 in Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research.

8. Play Games

Try word puzzles, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and games like Sudoku to keep your brain healthy and stimulated. Join — or start — a bridge club with your friends, Husain suggests. A good card game is always a good opportunity for conversation.

9. Make a Deeper Spiritual Connection

Religion and the community that goes with it can offer meaningful activities and support, and your place of worship can also be a great venue for volunteering, Brown says.

10. Make a Difference

Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes. Pitch in locally or search online for ways to volunteer from the comfort of your own home. For instance, the United Nations Volunteers program has opportunities across the world. Giving back can be one of the best ways to add meaning to your life. Husain knew a 98-year-old who still volunteered at a popcorn stand at a children’s hospital. “The pleasure he got out of it was much more than any medication I could have given him,” he says.

6 Ways to Improve Cognition & Emotion as We Age

Memory problems, cognitive decline and a growing loneliness epidemic, all make seniors especially vulnerable to mental health issues.

According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of mental health in older adults aged 55+, it is estimated that 20% of seniors experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment and mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar depression.

Common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can have a negative impact on physical health and wellness for seniors. The CDC states that these conditions, especially mood disorders, can lead to impairments in physical, mental and social functioning and can affect and complicate the treatment of other chronic disorders.

Although the rate of older adults with mental health conditions tends to increase with age, depression and other illnesses are not a normal part of aging.

A photo of scared-looking senior man, looking at his reflection in a window.

The good news about Senior Mental Health

The good news about senior mental health is that it is a treatable condition. In addition to the possibility of clinical intervention through the use of prescribed medications or therapy, there are a number of activities and resources available to help keep older adults engaged and in good mental health and spirits.

Staying connected and maintaining strong, meaningful social connections with friends and family goes a long way towards preventing mental health issues in seniors. The CDC reports that social support is associated with reduced risk of mental illness, physical illness and even mortality.

A variety of avenues exist—many at no cost—for older adults to stay sharp and boost their mood.

6 Ways to Improve Mental Health in Seniors

As circumstances and family dynamics change, active retirement living and adult day health programs can offer seniors a supportive community and social environment to keep up with the activities they love and even introduce them to some new ones!

With that in mind, here is our seniors’ guide to improving and maintaining good senior mental health and well-being.

1. Play Mind Games

Just as the body needs physical activity and stimulation to stay healthy, the brain needs stimulation to stay sharp and avoid cognitive decline as we age. According to Harvard Health Publishing, brain games can help sharpen certain thinking skills such as processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making and short-term memory.

Any activity that keeps the mind engaged and working towards solving problems contributes to brain health, but some of the most common and accessible activities for seniors include:

  • Reading and writing
    • Studies have proven that reading can enhance memory function, reduce stress and promote better sleep. Journaling can also help to manage and alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety.
  • Learning a new language
    • Language learning exercises regions of the brain often affected by aging and can build confidence and even increase socialization with others who may know or are learning the language.
  • Playing an instrument
    • Music stimulates the brain and improves memory in seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to The Washington Post, not only is playing, or learning to play, an instrument fun, but it can improve verbal fluency and processing speed within a matter of months.
  • Playing puzzles and games
    • In addition to being enjoyable, various puzzles have proven to delay memory decline and enhance senior mental health.

2. Get Physical

A photo of an older couple doing exercises.

From taking regular walks to yoga classes and ballroom dancing, exercise and physical activity benefit both the mind and the body by boosting confidence and reducing the risk of falls. Staying active and getting enough exercise are as important for seniors’ mental health and older adults’ well-being, as they are at any other stage of life.

In fact, low-impact exercises like stretching and strength training are actually necessary to help seniors stay healthy and reduce the risk of common age-related problems like bone fractures, joint pain, and other chronic illnesses.

In addition to the physical benefits, exercise can also help manage stress, anxiety and depression in seniors, which can be just as detrimental to seniors’ health as physical ailments and injuries. Exercising in order to maintain positive senior mental health is important.Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
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3. Stay Connected with Friends

Time and distance can make it difficult for people to maintain close relationships with old friends, especially as they age.

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Cultivate Friendships

The Internet and the phone keep pals old and new in touch.

For older adults, keeping in touch with the important people in their lives can help to stave off loneliness and feelings of isolation that can lead to depression, as well as mental and physical decline.

Learning how to connect with new and old friends on social media, through FaceTime, Zoom or Skype are just some ways to stay in touch. There are always people willing to teach older adults how to use these different applications, as well as online tutorials. Seniors can also keep it simple by writing letters or setting up a regular schedule for a good old-fashioned phone call.

And like anyone, seniors can always make new friends!

4. Pick up a New Hobby

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Staying active after retirement is extremely important. Everyone has a personal wish list of dreams and activities, but sometimes those ideas are put off because life can get busy.

Retirement is the perfect time for seniors to dust off their “bucket list” and pursue lifelong goals, be it gardening, sewing, painting or French cooking!

Hobbies like shadow boxes help increase the neuroplasticity of the brain in which nerve cells connect or reconnect, changing the brain’s structure and function when stimulated through the repetition of seeing them.

As neuronal connections in these pathways are strengthened, and new connections are established, individuals feel comforted and gain an increased sense of belonging and ultimately, improving senior mental health.

5. Volunteering

Many seniors find fulfillment and a sense of purpose in volunteering for a worthy cause.

With no shortage of organizations and causes in need of support, there are many opportunities for older adults to get involved, and in turn, feel valued and needed.

Seniors volunteering for a cause or organization can be a rewarding experience at any age.

For someone looking to donate their time after retirement, volunteering can offer a number of additional benefits that enhance seniors’ physical, emotional and mental health.

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Trading time for good causes can enhance mental health.

Whether you enjoy reading to or sharing your skills and expertise with children and young students, or you feel moved to volunteer in a hospital, local food pantry or soup kitchen, volunteering in retirement can help seniors remain active, socially engaged, and become part of a vibrant and diverse community.

From making new friends to getting (or staying) physically active, volunteering can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

6. Caring for a Pet

A photo of a senior woman hugging her poodle dog.

Where appropriate, animals can help keep seniors active and busy and offer companionship in the process, with their unconditional love.

According to the CDC, many studies have shown that the bond between humans and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness.

Other health benefits of having a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for socialization

If you don’t want to or are unable to own a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter is also a good way to connect with animals and help organizations in need.…

Strong relationships, strong health

Throughout your life, the number and strength of your relationships affect your mental and physical wellbeing.

The benefits of social connections and good mental health are numerous. Proven links include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships. Strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life. 

14 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Strong, Healthy, and Happy

The good news is that while many of these benefits can make you happier and more contented, there’s also a flow-on effect, whereby people around you will want to spend time with you. In this way, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. 

In contrast, loneliness can have dramatic consequences for your health. Loneliness can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased cortisol (a stress hormone). It can affect your immune system and decrease your overall sense of contentment. Loneliness is also a risk factor for antisocial behavior, depression, and suicide.

Older people are particularly vulnerable. If your mobility decreases, it can be harder to get together with other people. However, older people who remain connected with others and have strong relationships are likely to:

  • have a better quality of life 
  • be more satisfied with their life
  • have a lower risk of dementia and mental decline
  • need less domestic support.

Younger people (teenagers and people in their 20s) are also at risk when they are isolated. A lack of social relationships can have a direct impact on a young person’s physical wellbeing by increasing the risk of obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure. 

These three health issues can lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer, but a varied social network can help protect against physical decline. 
What’s more, the benefits of social ties are significant, even if your other mortality risk factors (such as socioeconomic status, smoking, drinking, obesity, and lack of physical activity) are low. In other words, even if you live a healthy life, you still need to be socially active to stay well and happy.

It’s important to recognize that loneliness is different from solitude. Feeling lonely is a problem, but being alone may not be a problem at all. Many people live alone and have happy, fulfilling lives. 

How to improve your social connections 

Feeling lonely is hard to cope with. Luckily, there are things you can do to tackle loneliness. For instance, you can nurture healthy relationships with people who make you feel good by spending time with them, and by trying to talk to someone every day. 

There are three kinds of connections that you can have with people:

  1. intimate connections – with people who love and care for you, such as family and friends
  2. relational connections – with people who you see regularly and share an interest with, such as workmates or those who serve your morning coffee
  3. collective connections – with people who share a group membership or an affiliation with you, such as people who vote like you do, or people who have the same faith.

Ask yourself: do you have meaningful, long-term relationships in all these three areas? 

Perhaps you tend to stick with old friends and don’t feel able to meet new people. Or maybe you avoid people from your past, preferring to mix with people who don’t know much about you. Be honest with yourself about your social habits. 

Think about the sorts of relationships you have with people, and the sorts of relationships you would like to have. You might find you want to make new friendships, or perhaps you want to try to make your existing relationships stronger.

One way to strengthen your social connections is to reach out to the people you already know, such as co-workers, family, school friends, or neighbors. Give someone a call, or write or email them and let them know you would like to be in touch more often. Arrange to have a coffee or a meal, or to listen to music, have a round of golf, or play chess. Think about the interests you share. Facebook and other social media are also great ways to stay in touch. 

There are lots of ways to meet new people. Start a conversation with some of the people you see every day, such as the people on your bus each morning, people at the gym or the park, or the regular checkout operators at your supermarket. (Just remember to make sure that you are safe when meeting new people. Having other people around – for example, meeting in a public place – can be a good strategy.) 

Other ideas include joining a sports team walking or hobby group, or volunteering. Call your local council to find out about local groups or programs, or visit your local community center or library – there’s always something happening in your community.

Not all strategies will work for everyone, so try some different approaches to see what works for you. If the first thing you try doesn’t work out, try something different. beyondblue’s Connections matter booklet has some useful ideas for older people.

The idea of social connection is to share your time, experiences, and stories with people, and to also listen to them. Gradually, you will build a group of people in your life who care about you, and who you also care about. Both your mind and body will reap the rewards.

Relationships help society too

Social ties affect not only your personal health but also extend to broader society. People who spend more time with each other forge happy, productive communities.

Facts About Mental Health in Seniors

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About 58% of people over age 65 think that depression is a normal part of aging. Myths like this often prevent seniors from having mental illnesses identified and treated. (Mental Health America Survey)

According to the CDC (cdc.gov), an estimated 20% of people over the age of 55 have a mental health issue. Many mental illnesses can significantly affect physical and social well-being. Mental illnesses can, however, be hard to distinguish from regular signs of aging.

8 Common Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Aging

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Signs of mental illness in older adults may be expressed verbally during conversations. Often, though, the elderly exhibit symptoms behaviorally or physically instead. Look for these eight symptoms in the elderly to spot mental illness during the aging process.

1. UNUSUAL AVOIDANCES

For seniors, avoiding extreme heat or exhausting activities makes sense. However, avoiding eye contact, using the bathroom, touching particular objects, or participating in events is atypical. Watch for extreme or unusual avoidances.

2. DIFFICULTY MAKING BASIC DECISIONS

Decision-making is affected by memory, emotions, and judgment processes. When seniors struggle to make basic decisions or change their minds frequently, the issue may be caused by mental illness.

3. UNEXPLAINED STOMACH DISTRESS

A person’s gut reveals much about their physiological state. If a senior has unexplained digestive problems, they may be experiencing feelings or thoughts due to mental illness that is causing distress.

4. AGITATION OR MOODINESS

Irritability among seniors may occur as a result of physical conditions like chronic pain. However, agitation and moodiness that is disassociated from a reasonable cause can indicate a mental health problem.

5. CHANGE IN APPETITE OR SLEEPING PATTERNS

Often a change in eating or sleeping habits is the first sign people notice of depression. Pay attention to a senior’s routine and ask questions to understand why their habits may otherwise be changing.

6. DISINTEREST WITH FATIGUE

Feeling tired can occur as a result of aging. When tiredness becomes constant or chronic fatigue, it may be a sign of something more. Be on alert for disinterest in hobbies or a decrease in socialization due to fatigue.

7. HALLUCINATIONS OR DELUSIONS

If a senior recall information that doesn’t make sense or that never occurred, they may be experiencing hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms may present as paranoia or as simple confusion.

8. SUDDEN CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDE

It is unusual for optimistic seniors to suddenly feel sad all of the time with no cause. Likewise, a senior who participates in a hobby regularly and without explanation stops may be struggling with a mental illness.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Elderly Mental Health Issues

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Mental health disorders affect about 20% of older adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, nearly one in three of those seniors doesn’t receive treatment because of shame or the fear that it will be dismissed as part of the aging process.

With knowledge and watchfulness, you can assess your senior loved one’s safety and well-being, and stay aware of their emotional and mental health to make sure they receive proper treatment.

Do mental health issues get worse with age?

Mental illness isn’t a natural part of aging. In fact, mental health disorders affect younger adults more often than the elderly, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, seniors are less likely to seek help.

The most common psychiatric disorder among the elderly is severe cognitive impairment or dementia. About five million adults age 65 and older — approximately 10% of seniors — have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Depression and mood disorders affect up to 5% of seniors 65 and older, and up to 13.5% of older adults who receive home health care or are hospitalized, according to the CDC. Disturbingly, these issues often go undiagnosed and untreated.

Anxiety disorders often go along with depression. They include a range of issues, from hoarding syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, to phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly 8% of adults older than 65 have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, says the CDC.

Risk factors for mental health disorders in seniors

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Older adults experience stress like all people, but even the normal emotional and physical stresses that go along with aging can be risk factors for mental illnesses. It’s important to pay careful attention to your aging loved one’s mental health, especially if they’re living alone or aren’t able to socialize as often as they once did.

Many potential triggers exist for mental illness in the elderly, according to the World Health Organization and the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. These include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Dementia-causing illness (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Illness or loss of a loved one
  • Long-term illness (e.g., cancer or heart disease)
  • Chronic pain
  • Medication interactions
  • Physical disability or loss of mobility
  • Physical illnesses that can affect emotion, memory, and thought
  • Poor diet or malnutrition

Assessing mental health in older adults

One of the ongoing problems with diagnosing and treating mental illness in seniors is the fact that older adults are more likely to report physical symptoms than psychiatric complaints. In fact, many seniors may not even recognize their own mental health issues. This is why the American Psychiatric Association advises family members to seek professional advice if they believe their elderly loved one may be experiencing mental health problems.

Assess these five areas to determine whether a consultation with your loved one’s doctor is warranted:

  • Life tasks and self-care activities, such as dressing, preparing meals, or using the phone
  • Safety, including financial safety and driving
  • Physical health, including pain or uncomfortable symptoms, hospitalizations, or loss of appetite
  • Mood and brain health, such as feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or isolation
  • Medication safety, including skipping medications, and worrisome side effects or symptoms related to medications

10 symptoms of mental illness in the elderly

Senior Mental Health: 7 Tips to Improve Cognition & Emotion as We Age

It’s important to keep a close eye while visiting your aging loved one in order to spot signs that they need help. As your loved one ages, it’s natural for some changes to occur. Occasional forgetfulness is normal; however, persistent cognitive or memory loss can be potentially serious.

The same goes for extreme anxiety or long-term depression. Caregivers should keep an eye out for the following warning signs, which could indicate a mental health concern:

  1. Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
  2. Confusion, disorientation, or other problems with concentration or decision-making
  3. Decrease or increase in appetite; changes in weight
  4. Depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
  5. Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
  6. Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
  7. Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
  8. Social withdrawal, or loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
  9. Trouble handling finances or working with numbers
  10. Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes

Don’t hesitate to seek further assistance if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms above. Their family doctor is always a good source to start with.