While it’s normal to feel down from time to time, when seniors are isolated and lonely, more serious conditions like depression can become common. Depression is much more than feeling sad or blue; it’s a medical condition that can have serious physical effects on your overall health.
Aging and Mental Health
According to the CDC, depression is definitely not a normal part of the aging process. However, older adults tend to be more at risk for depression due to factors like social isolation, medical conditions like heart disease or stroke, or medication side effects. Plus, seniors may be less likely to admit that they are feeling depressed and not get the treatment they need to improve their quality of life.
The CDC reports that along with depression, around 20 percent of people over the age of 55 suffer from mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety, cognition issues or a combination of all the above. When mental health becomes compromised, older adults become more at risk for losing their independence.
Keeping Positive – How to Improve Senior Mental Health
The good news is that there are ways to improve senior mental health and keep a positive outlook on life! The key to optimal mental health is to focus on three areas:
Staying Socially Active
Social isolation is a key factor leading to depression and other mental health conditions in older adults. Luckily, there are plenty of ways for seniors to remain socially active as they age. Keeping in touch regularly with family and friends is now easier than ever thanks to technology like Skype, Facetime or social media. Or, seniors can consider taking classes at a community college, volunteering at a local hospital or animal shelter, joining a book or garden club, etc.
Maintaining Physical Activity Levels
Regular exercise does more than keep the body in good shape. Physical activity can also positively affect the brain; a number of studies have shown the correlation between physical health and mental health. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that not only increase energy, but also improve mood. Seniors of all fitness levels can take part in a variety of exercises, from simply taking a daily walk to strength training and light aerobics, or chair exercises for those with mobility issues. Or, consider joining a senior exercise program that offers classes dedicated to the specific needs of older adults.
Keeping Your Brain Engaged
Challenging the brain throughout the aging process is vital not only for better mental health, but also for giving the memory a boost. An active brain allows for sharper concentration, enhanced function and focus, and improved problem-solving skills. Seniors can consider playing brain games that increase mental productivity, learning a new language or instrument, or taking up a new hobby to keep the brain active and engaged.
Positive mental health is as important as physical health for seniors to continue to thrive and enjoy life to the fullest.