5 Ways to Boost Mental Health in Seniors

Apr 26, 2024
mental health in seniors

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a good time to better understand and protect mental health in seniors and their wellbeing. Seniors have many threats that can undermine mental health that are just part of life like losing a spouse or partner as well as other risks that may be overlooked until the damage is done. However, there are ways to recognize and prevent these challenges and stay mentally healthy in retirement.

Among the greatest threats to mental health are isolation and loneliness which can cause a variety of problems ranging from feeling left behind to depression, anxiety and even thoughts of suicide. According to the psychologytoday.com article, “Mental Health Concerns and Aging,” the mental health problems associated with isolation and loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, can contribute to cognitive decline, and increase the risk of a variety of physical ailments including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Other mental health threats come from concerns about the future, health problems, finances, issues with mobility and self-care, losing independence and becoming a burden, to name a few. These can add up and eventually have dire consequences. But there are ways to minimize these threats.

5 Ways to Minimize the Threats to Mental Health in Seniors

Build social connections

It’s a fact that socialization is good for humans and seniors are no exception. But when spouses, partners and friends pass away or move, and it can become more difficult to start new relationships. Rather than suffer in silence, seniors can help themselves by reaching out to family and local organizations that cater to seniors. Start with asking family to visit or arrange for a weekly video call to stay in touch. Next seek out ways to meet others like through faith-based groups, senior centers, taking a yoga or art class, or volunteering. Another option is to adopt a pet which can open new doors to staying healthy in body and mind. For more possibilities check out the healthline.com article “12 Ways to Expand Your Social Life After 50.”

Get in shape

Good mental health is often tied directly to good physical health so exercising regularly is important. According to the mayoclinic.org article, “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms,” exercise not only releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins but can also increase opportunities to meet new friends, look better, and cope with everyday stress. Although any amount of exercise is good, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article “How much physical activity do older adults need? recommends 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity as well as strength training twice a week and regular exercise to improve balance.

Find fulfillment and a sense of purpose

Another way to boost well-being and mental health is to find ways to feel fulfilled. Among the many possibilities are starting a new hobby, volunteering for a cause, sharing professional knowledge and expertise, getting involved with your faith, or even a part-time job. The key is to seek a purposeful path that provides a reason to get up every morning and move forward. The rewards are worth the effort. According to the practicalneurology.com article, “The Science Behind the Powerful Benefits of Having a Purpose,” living purposefully can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, improve sleep, and reduce the likelihood of becoming frail.

Create a routine

Doing any or all of the above can seem like a lot but having a daily and/or weekly routine can go a long way toward accomplishing goals. Just like a job, creating a routine can set the stage for reaching fulfillment and feeling like life has a purpose. The mhanational.org article, “Creating Healthy Routines” notes that routines not only help people get things done but can lower stress levels when life throws them a curve ball. Routines also help build habits like getting regular exercise, making time for self-care and spending time with friends and family.

Adopt optimism

Always trying to look on the bright side can be difficult for those who aren’t natural optimists but science says it can help improve mental health. According to the health.harvard.edu article, “Thoughts on optimism,” optimists enjoy longer healthier lives so it is definitely worth a try. Start by simply trying to be more positive. Positive people are mentally and physically healthier, experience more happiness and have stronger relationships. So avoid being negative and critical (and self-critical), smile more, and be mindful of thoughts and actions that can undermine optimism. For more help the verywellmind.com article, “Being Optimistic When the World Around You Isn’t,” is a great resource.

Staying mentally healthy can be a challenge, and at Ganton’s Countryside Senior Living, we stand ready to help. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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