The body doesn’t perform or respond the same way it does in your 60s as it did in your 20s. You can’t simply bounce back like you used to, as they say. Sitting down the wrong way can induce pain! The mind doesn’t perform the same way either, and there is a connection between the aging body and the aging mind.
As you get older, the risk of mental health problems increases. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), roughly one in four older adults has a mental health problem. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also reports that about 6.5 million American seniors suffer from depression. Seniors who live independently tend to have a lower risk of depression, with the condition only affecting about one to five percent in this group.
Despite the the numbers, mental health problems in elderly citizens are often overlooked. This is often because the symptoms may resemble those of a different disease. For example, weight loss and poor appetite may seem like a digestive issue, and problems with general functioning may seem like a case of arthritis. As you can see, symptoms of mental health disorders can be mistaken for physical issues that elderly people commonly experience. Aging takes a toll on your mental health, both in a psychological and emotional way. To support mental health as you age, use the following strategies.
Go Back To School
Challenge the brain as you get older by taking a class at your local community college. Often times, many classes are free or available at a low cost. Stimulating the brain’s learning channels is a great way to stay sharp as you age. Consider a language class or another area of study that interests you. You can even take classes online if you don’t want to leave the house.
Prioritize Physical Activity
Exercise benefits both the body and the mind. According to multiple studies, 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times per week may improve mood and reduce anxiety. Another study found that one 60-minute dance class per week helped to dramatically reduce depression symptoms. Go for a daily walk or join an exercise class at a nearby gym or senior center. Staying physically active also helps to preserve cognitive function, making it easier to solve problems and maintain independence.
Do Things You Enjoy
Some people embrace traveling in their old age, spending time in various countries around the world. You don’t always have the luxury to devote a lot of time to hobbies and activities as a young adult, especially if you’re raising kids and working hard. Embrace life in your old age and use this opportunity to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Doing things that make you happy is one of the best forms of self-care, which is a valuable component for optimal mental health.
Get A Pet
A lot of psychologists agree that caring for a pet is a great way to improve mental health. Animals help to keep seniors more socially engaged, even-keeled, and less depressed. According a 2014 study, seniors with pets are less agitated and have a more social life. Socializing, no matter how you do it, is an excellent way to maintain your mental health. The idea is to maintain relationships and connections, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Eat A Nutrient-Rich Diet
The foods you consume can influence your mental health, regardless of your age. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein, and legumes ensures optimal vitamin and mineral intake. Lacking in certain nutrients can contribute to mental decline. For example, a lack of folate in your diet increases the risk of depression. Low vitamin D levels can increase the risk of depression and mood changes. Many experts say that the Mediterranean diet is the best for keeping the mind sharp and healthy as you get older.
Stay connected with people and find ways to be involved with family. Healthy interactions go a long way in maintaining mental health in old age. Schedule phone or video calls with friends and family. You can even consider volunteering, which comes in all shapes and sizes. You can get involved with beach clean-ups or animal shelters. The possibilities are endless!