Cognitive decline, memory issues, and an increasingly lonely population of older people, all make seniors even more vulnerable to mental health problems. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s been estimated that 20 percent of adults aged 60 and older suffer from some type of mental or neurological disorder. Not surprisingly, those who suffer from chronic pain or mobility issues, or have received a diagnosis that has a prognosis of six months or less, perhaps leading them to enter Hospice of Virginia or another hospice facility, are even more likely to struggle with the common conditions that seniors develop such as anxiety and depression.
While it may be common for seniors to have mental health issues, it isn’t normal. There are ways to lessen the risk and enjoy greater well-being.
Exercise isn’t just important for the body, it’s critical for the mind. From ballroom dancing and swimming to regular walks and yoga classes, all provide great benefits. While getting some activity that raises the heart rate is always good, low-impact exercises such as strength training and stretching are essential for reducing the risk of common age-related issues such as joint pain and bone fractures. It all supports better brain health too as any physical activity can help manage stress while relieving anxiety and decreasing the odds of depression.
The mind needs stimulation to keep it working at its best while reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Playing any type of brain game can help sharpen short-term memory, the ability to think on your feet, planning skills and more. Anything that keeps the brain engaged and working on solving problems can help. Learning a new language, how to play an instrument, or just doing crossword puzzles has been shown to delay or prevent memory decline while enhancing mental health.
Green tea has been found to offer many health benefits thanks to its high level of EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate). This powerful substance is believed to protect neurons from age-related damage. One study out of the University of Basel showed that green tea extract boosted cognitive function in participants, with working memory particularly enhanced.
As human beings, we’re meant to be social which means keeping in touch with others can help seniors stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression and mental decline. If possible, try to visit family often, especially grandchildren. It’s also important to connect with both old and new friends, by phone, email, old-fashioned letter writing, and on social media. Video calls like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime are ideal. Of course, there’s nothing that can replace real face-to-face time with friends, whether it’s going shopping, getting your hair done, or enjoying dinner – all types of social stimulation are good.
Caring for a pet can help people of all ages enjoy better mental health. For seniors, especially those who live alone, it can make a significant difference in easing loneliness, the odds of developing depression, and even helping to become socially engaged. For example, taking a dog for a stroll around the block or to a park is another good opportunity to connect with others who are doing the same.