Close up of senior woman's hands knitting

Tips for Understanding Senior Mental Health and How To Improve It

With the onset of cognitive decline, memory problems, and other physical complications, seniors are vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues. Add to this their individual struggles from retirement and kids growing up. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explored the mental health of individuals over the age of 55. Their study found out that almost one-fifth of this population experiences at least one mental health concern. The most common ones are severe cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression. 

If not addressed properly, these conditions might impact their physical health. The good news is that experts agree that this problem is treatable with various interventions, whether through medication or simple activities. Listed below are the most effective ways to boost the mental health of a senior


Keep The Brain Busy

One technique to improve a senior’s mental health activity is by keeping the brain busy. According to a study by Harvard Health Publishing, this effort will increase processing speed, sharpen memory, enhance reaction time, and improve cognition and reasoning. So, what are the most common activities that a senior can partake in?

  • Playing Games and Puzzles: Solving crossword puzzles, playing card games, piecing a puzzle together, and engaging with board games have been proven to enhance senior mental health as it delays memory decline. 
  • Reading and Writing: Creativity takes over the mind once activated. Researchers revealed that reading has the capability to help you reduce stress, enhance memory function, and engage in better sleep. Journaling and any forms of writing also alleviate stress and anxiety. 
  • Learning a Language: Seniors might think that it’s too late to learn a new language. However, this is a great space to build their confidence and improve their socialization skills since they can interact with people they are not familiar with. 


Stay Active

There’s no doubt that exercising is vital to ensuring that the body and mind are at their best. This is something that most senior citizens miss since they think that they are already at their sluggish phase. That’s not true. There are still various forms of physical activities that seniors can engage in. 

For one, seniors should ensure that they get to have their daily walk fulfilled every day. To keep it fun and lighter, they may even do it in groups or join senior walking exercises spearheaded by senior living in Simi Valley or gyms. Aside from this, they may also enroll in dance classes or Zumba classes. 

A research study from the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association proved that 60-minute physical activities twice or thrice a week overcome symptoms from anxiety and depression. 

  Senior women sitting on couch talking and laughing


Keep the Connections With Family and Friends

Just because a senior’s kids already have their own lives does not mean that they can’t keep ties with them. It’s the same thing with their peers, wherein it’s also healthy to keep their bond despite them living their own lives. Sustaining these connections is one of the ways to receive mental benefits. The happiness and fulfillment they get from these relationships translate to a lighter mental state. 

Keeping connected does not mean that they have to converse with them every day. Instead, they can occasionally schedule activities like watching a movie, having a shopping spree, or getting their hair done. However, if they are the homebody kind of person, setting a special dinner, cooking with the family, and gardening with the grandchildren will do. 

Take advantage of technology as well. If meeting physically is not feasible, then why not maximize the power of phones and computers? Send periodic messages to see how your family and friends are doing. It’s better to set up group chats to keep everyone involved in the conversation. For more real-time connections, it’s better to use FaceTime and Skype. 


Get a Pet

Engaging with family and friends might be a non-daily affair. Therefore, there might be days where a senior will feel isolated and sad due to the lack of interaction and socializing with the people around them. The best way to deal with this is by getting a furry companion

Various researches showed that the benefits of a senior getting a pet is astounding. Results proved that adopting one reduces the feelings of isolation and the possibility of getting depression. Surprisingly, there was also evidence that showed that there is also increased feelings of both security and motivation. 


Pick a New Hobby

Most seniors stop learning when they reach their retirement stage. They mostly feel that this phase of life is primarily for relaxation and stress-free living. However, the lack of eventfulness in their lives sometimes results in sadness, boredom, and solitude. They have not realized that retirement is the best time to learn new things and pursue their passion and goals. 

Examples of possible learnings include simple skills such as gardening, cooking, baking, painting, and sewing. They can even check the possibility of setting up their own businesses or ticking everything on their bucket list. 

Whatever they choose, it still goes back to the science of it. Hobbies help reconnect nerve cells, resulting in stronger pathways and new connections. The end feeling for that is that these elderlies will gain a sense of responsibility, comfort, and belonging. Thus, improving their total mental health. 


Establish a Routine

Mental health is a complicated thing. There are days where you’ll feel happy and optimistic, but there are days that you’ll feel depressed and empty. This is the same thing with seniors. 

The best way to address this seesaw of feelings is to structure their days and ensure they follow a routine. This will enable them to feel closer to home and remove the possibility of experiencing drastic shifts in their mental state. Doing this will also allow getting back that sense of control. 

Addressing mental health is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Seniors have to test these tips first to see what works for them or not. Once they figure out that formula, it will be easier for them to manage their mental health state.