Aging Successfully: Senior citizens and mental health concerns

  • Wednesday, May 26, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion
Crystal Linn

It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be two billion people worldwide who are 60 years of age or older! These valuable citizens face special physical and mental health challenges which are unique to their age bracket. Each challenge needs to be recognized and addressed appropriately.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” However, more than 20 percent of seniors suffer from mental or neurological disorders which are not a normal part of aging. Two of the most common are anxiety and mood disorders, which includes depression. Substance abuse is also of concern as it is easy to overlook in the senior population, and is often misdiagnosed.

Many in this age group suffer from the stigma surrounding mental health concerns which makes them afraid to seek help. In addition, one fourth of deaths caused by self-harm are senior citizens.

Obviously, when not diagnosed or treated, mental health concerns can create serious problems for seniors and their loved ones.

The good news is there are many activities which can reduce the risk of stress and mental illness in seniors. Here are six simple ones:

1. Mental stimulation

The brain needs stimulation to stay healthy, just as the body needs exercise to stay healthy. The list of possible activities is endless and includes brain teasers, learning a language, playing an instrument, and playing board games or journaling.

2. Keep physically active

This does not mean strenuous exercising. There are many fun ways to keep physically active such as dancing, yoga, and leisurely walks. Most of us are aware how physical activity releases endorphins which helps a person feel better. Physical activity is also a good stress release. A cousin loved to dance and her therapist told her to ‘dance her anger out’. She danced so hard her feet bruised, but it worked.

3. Stay connected

It can be difficult to stay connected with family and friends. Everyone is busy with their own lives and many retirees do not wish to be a nuisance to their friends or a burden to their children. Sending or receiving a phone call or greeting card can work wonders for lifting one’s spirits.

4. Volunteer

This is another way for seniors to stay connected and to feel validated. Volunteering for a worthy cause gives seniors a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

5. Find a hobby

Hobbies bring enjoyment, keeps the mind active, and usually involves companionship. Depending on the activity a hobby, such as golf, can include physical exercise.

6. Care for a pet

Many studies show how the bond between humans and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness. Other benefits of owning a pet are a decrease in blood pressure, a decrease in feeling lonely, and increased opportunities for socializing. While furry animals which can be held and petted are most ideal, a caged bird or fish in a tank can be helpful. If owning a pet is not an option then volunteering at an animal shelter or pet sitting can work wonders.

Email us and share your ideas for helpful senior activities. My email address is information@crystallinn.com. I reply to all emails.

Great news, our book is finally published! I will send the contest winners their copies soon. “Thoughts on Aging Successfully” is available in print and ebook from Amazon.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See crystallinn.com.

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