7 Tips to Improve Senior Mental Health
From memory problems and cognitive decline to a growing loneliness epidemic, seniors are especially vulnerable to mental health issues. Studies have shown common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can also have a negative impact on general health and wellness. In many cases, sadness and social isolation can have additional negative side effects and increase the risk of serious health problems. But the good news is there are a number of activities and resources available to help keep the older adults close to you 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.
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 discover a few new ones!
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 common as we age. 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 (journaling can also help to manage and alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety) Learning a new language
- Playing an instrument
- Playing puzzles and games
From taking regular walks to yoga classes and ballroom dancing, exercise and physical activity are good for both the mind and the body by boosting confidence and reducing the risk of falling, for example.
Stay Connected with Friends Time and distance can make it difficult for anyone to maintain close relationships with old friends, especially as we age. 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. Teach your older relative or friend how to connect with new and old friends on social media and Skype. Or keep it simple and encourage them to write letters or set up a regular schedule for a good old-fashioned phone call.
Sign Up for an Adult Day Health Program
Adult day health is a great resource for seniors looking to stay active, make new friends, pick up new skills, and join a friendly and welcoming community of peers and skilled nursing and care professionals. For example, Adult Day Health Centers offer a wide array of programs including a morning coffee social, medication assistance, personal care and grooming, group exercise, crafts, music and movies, discussion groups and educational programs, seasonal activities, parties, and outings.
Pick up a New Hobby
After retirement, it is still important to maintain a routine. Everyone has a personal wish list of dreams and activities they put off for “one day.” Retirement is the perfect time for seniors to dust off their “bucket list” and pursue a lifelong goal, be it gardening, sewing, painting or French cooking!
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 possibilities for older adults to get involved and feel valued and needed.
Caring for a Pet
Where appropriate, animals can help keep seniors active and busy and offer companionship in the process with their unconditional love. Volunteering at an animal shelter is also a good way to connect with animals if you don’t care for one of your own.