Updated: Nov 28, 2020
Guest blog by Jason Lewis. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
We often think of people having it all together when they get older, but the truth is, many seniors struggle. In fact, some statistics indicate about 15 percent of seniors face a serious mental health concern. Thankfully, if you’re struggling, there are things you can do to get back on top of your circumstances.
Increase Physical Activity
One of the best ways seniors can improve their wellness (physical AND mental) is through added exercise. According to some studies, seniors who workout spend 25 percent less time laid up with injuries, or even disabled, than their peers who don’t exercise. What’s more, physical activity can be a tonic for mental health. When you exercise, feel-good chemistry is released in your brain, helping you feel happier and more energetic naturally. It even appears that routine exercise can lower your risk for anxiety and depression, promote positivity, and help ward off dementia.
You don’t need to spend a great deal of time exercising, nor do you need to join a gym. According to Today’s Geriatric, five 30 minute exercise sessions per week are enough to keep seniors in top shape. A few popular options are walking, pickle-ball, and swimming. However, you can work out at home and still get the necessary results while avoiding potentially harsh weather conditions. You don’t even need any special equipment since you can do things like yoga and strength exercises. To add some spice, consider some technological flavor. For instance, Wii games, YouTube videos, and fitness apps can broaden your repertoire and keep things fun. Always check with your doctor before you begin any new workout programs.
Make Time for Friends
It’s easy to recognize friends are people who make us feel good; otherwise, we wouldn’t choose to spend time with them. However, you might be surprised at how much an active social life can influence your mental well-being. In fact, Stonegate cites statistics indicating isolation as a key factor in the decline of many seniors, impacting their physical and mental health dramatically. Those who become socially isolated appear to suffer more stress, depression, and anxiety, increased risk for dementia, and also have more physical issues such as heart problems. This can create a domino effect, as seniors become more ill and withdrawn.
On the other hand, seniors who are socially active can enjoy important mental health benefits. Time spent with friends can help you feel supported and connected, lowering your risk for stress and depression. It reduces the chance that you’ll develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well, along with a host of physical ailments.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, one way to connect with friends is through senior centers. You can search for senior centers in your area. Senior centers often provide organized activities and events for seniors, such as classes, games, group meals, and trips. Some also provide things like transportation, wellness programs, and opportunities to use exercise equipment.
Get Into the Great Outdoors
Done with caution, spending time in the great outdoors can be a boon to seniors’ well-being. Some research indicates a natural environment can provide an important lift to mental health. Surrounding yourself with green space can reduce feelings of depression, lower stress levels, decrease anxiety, and reduce the amount you mull over negative thoughts. It can help you to be more creative, better at problem-solving, and lift your self-esteem. As you get older, being out and about in extreme temperatures can be dangerous, so proceed carefully and review both cold weather and hot weather safety guidelines.
There are many ways seniors can feel better. If you’re struggling, consider being more active, both physically and socially, and make sure you spend time in nature. These simple strategies can help boost your mental health, leading to better overall quality of life. However, if you already incorporate these ideas into your life, and are still struggling or unhappy, please consider seeing a therapist or mental health professional.