Senior Mental Health: 6 Tips to Improve Cognition & Emotion as We Age
Common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can have a negative impact on physical health and wellness for seniors.
From memory problems and cognitive decline to a growing loneliness epidemic, seniors are especially vulnerable to mental health issues.
In many cases, sadness and social isolation can have additional negative side effects and increase the risk of serious health problems.
The good news about Senior Mental Health
The good news about Senior Mental Health is that 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.
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 discover a few new ones!
With that in mind, here is our Seniors’ guide to improving and maintaining good mental health and wellbeing.
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.
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 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
- Playing an instrument: music stimulates the brain & improves memory in seniors with Alzheimer’s & dementia
- Playing puzzles and games: being active, having fun, and challenging your brain have multiple cognitive benefits
2. Get Physical
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.
Staying active and getting enough exercise are as important for senior mental health and older adults’ wellbeing, 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 senior health as physical ailments and injuries.
3. 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.
And like anyone, seniors can always make new friends!
4. Pick up a New Hobby
Staying active after retirement is extremely important. 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!
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 established, individuals with dementia feel comforted and gain an increased sense of belonging.
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.
Seniors volunteering for a cause or organization can be a rewarding experience at any age.
But for someone looking to donate their time after retirement, volunteering can offer a number of additional benefits that enhance physical, emotional, and mental health.
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 or 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
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.
For more information contact SALMON Health and Retirement to learn more.