Mental health is both a global and social issue that has been present since the dawn of time. In fact, the pandemic brought by COVID-19 has only increased and aggravated the problem further, affecting many people of different ages, especially seniors.
Even without the current health crisis, about 20% of older adults aged 55 and up can experience some type of mental health problem. It does not discriminate either because every senior can suffer from it, whether you are aging in place or residing in an assisted living in Oceanside, CA.
So this Mental Health Awareness month, let us join hands in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health through increased consciousness. Build a united front in creating a safe space for yourself, a grandparent, a senior patient, or a fellow elderly friend.
Here are some interesting facts about senior mental health, common mental problems in older adults, and ways to improve mental well-being.
Mental Health Problems in Older Adults
Millennials and Gen Zs may be the most vocal ones about the mental health issues they face. Unfortunately, many are not aware of just how vulnerable seniors can be to this debilitating, hidden disability.
Deteriorating physical health, loss of loved ones, and a failing cognitive ability are just some of the various reasons that make elderlies prone to develop some kind of mental illness.
The most common mental diseases in seniors include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and traumas. But here’s the good news: doctors can treat and help seniors manage their mental illness; there’s medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy.
Moreover, learning about the early warning signs of mental illness can also help you or your senior loved one detect it and create a treatment plan early on. Some of the telltale signs that a senior might be on the brink of a mental illness include:
- Difficulty in remembering things.
- A sudden loss of interest in his/her once-loved hobbies.
- Socially isolating oneself.
- Gradually neglecting personal care.
- Sudden mood changes. For instance, a senior may be upbeat one minute and irritable or depressed the next.
- Constantly stressed out about certain things.
- Usually irritable, angry, anxious, or lonely.
Despite being common in elderlies, there are plenty of ways to prevent developing a mental health problem. You just have to take care of your mental well-being in the healthiest way possible!
4 Helpful Ways to Improve Senior Mental Health
Retirement brings you a lot of free time on your hands. So, make sure to fill it with meaningful and exciting activities that also help you take care of your mental physique.
Lots of assisted living in Oceanside, CA, like Ocean Hills Senior Living, provide seniors with activities and opportunities to strengthen their mental health. You can give some of it a try and see how well it can positively impact your mental health.
1. Stay Physically Active
You might be skeptical about the ability of exercise to boost your mental health. But according to a Harvard study and much other research, regular physical activity has the means to power up both your body and brain.
For starters, one of its direct effects on the brain is to fill it with optimal amounts of oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the brain becomes stimulated, which will cause it to improve its cognitive function. This includes memory, thinking, learning, and reasoning. Other benefits include the following:
- Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones. Thus, making you feel more mentally relaxed and uplifted even after a bout of a sweaty workout.
- Physical activities that get you moving triggers the release of your “happy hormones” or endorphins. This hormone also acts as a natural pain killer and mood elevator.
- The results of engaging in regular exercise (e.g., fabulous physique, a finished task) adds to your confidence and self-fulfillment.
2. Keep the Brain Stimulated
Indeed, an active brain is a happy and healthy brain. You may be retired in your career, but you should never retire from keeping the wheels in your brain going.
Stay mentally sharp and prevent cognitive decline by engaging in activities that benefit the mind. This includes:
- Playing puzzles and games both online and offline.
- Reading books in your favorite genre.
- Writing in a journal or blogging.
- Learning how to play a certain instrument.
- Enrolling in an online class that interests you, such as cooking classes or knitting tutorials.
- Signing up on virtual tours offered by local museums.
Challenge your brain with these simple yet helpful activities to boost your cognitive and mental prowess! In addition, you can easily do these mind exercises whenever, wherever, and at a low cost.
3. Maintain a Healthy Connection with Loved Ones
It’s okay to enjoy your own company from time to time. However, make sure not to neglect the meaningful connections you have because your mental and social health needs those to thrive.
Staying connected with friends and loved ones will help ward off the loneliness that will eventually knock on your door. Furthermore, it helps to have supportive people around you during times of mental and emotional crisis.
You can seek their help to solve problems, rely on their solid advice, and just have someone to talk to about your feelings without judgment. Simply knowing that someone out there loves you and cares for you is more than enough to survive a stressful situation.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to try and befriend fellow residents in your assisted living in Oceanside, CA. Who knows, he/she might be the best friend that you have been waiting for.
4. Pursue the Things You Enjoy
You only get to live one life, so make sure you spend it doing the things you truly enjoy. Whether it is pursuing a new hobby or volunteering in charity works, go for it!
Activities that bring you joy and satisfaction have a significant impact on your mental health. It renews your purpose and brings out the best version of yourself, all of which contributes to you enjoying life to the fullest.
You can try doing religious works, spending time with your grandkids, or getting a pet.