Aging brings about a number of life transitions. While some of these changes are exciting and meaningful, others are challenging. Seniors may face emotional or social difficulties that they haven’t experienced before, like loneliness, medical problems, or the loss of a spouse. Protecting your mental health in later life is critical. Not only are these difficult situations common, but seniors may also be more vulnerable to developing mental health disorders. Senior mental health is a major factor in an individual’s overall quality of life, and it’s important to be proactive in strengthening your mind.
Here Are Seven Ways to Improve Mental Health in Seniors
1. Socialize as often as possible.
Loneliness is one of the most common struggles for seniors, and it can have severe mental health consequences. Humans are social by nature, and we all need to have meaningful connections with others. Older adults are more likely to live alone or lack regular contact with friends and family, so seniors should look for as many social opportunities as possible.
Scheduling recurring social events can be a great option for older adults. It’s easy to let months pass by without seeing a friend, but by adding recurring meetings to your calendar, you’ll be sure to maintain that connection. This is a helpful way to settle into a routine as well, which can promote senior mental health.
If you don’t have a lot of close friends or family members nearby, you could look to your community to find social events. You may have a local senior meetup group or senior center that hosts classes or other gatherings. Some even offer transportation, which makes attending these programs far easier.
2. Volunteer or give back.
One common factor in senior mental health is struggling to find a sense of purpose in day-to-day life. When you’re retired with grown-up children, the things that used to define you may not be a part of your identity anymore. To protect your mental health, you should find new activities that add meaning to your life.
Volunteering can be an impactful way to make a difference in your community. You could volunteer your time at a local food pantry, hospital, school, or other organization. This can give you a sense of pride and purpose, which is the key to good mental health.
This has other benefits for seniors mental health, too. Volunteering is typically a social experience, and it may be an opportunity to get more movement and physical activity in your day. If you make volunteering a recurring part of your schedule, you may also find that the routine helps you feel stable and grounded.
3. Work on your cognitive health.
Skills like language, memory, and focus can all have an effect on your mental health. When you struggle to connect with the world around you, you may feel depressed, anxious, or confused. Maintaining your cognitive health is an important way to protect your mental health as you get older. By retaining your ability to communicate with others, you can go about your life with more confidence and ease.
Games and puzzles are helpful ways to improve your cognitive skills. When you’re alone, you could work on jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku puzzles, or adult coloring books. With friends or family, you could play card games or board games to keep your mind sharp. This gives you a chance to spend time with loved ones, too, which has countless mental health benefits.
Physical activity is one of the best mental health practices at any age. Not only is exercise good for your heart, joints, and muscles, but it has significant benefits for senior mental health. Exercising can reduce symptoms of depression, alleviate anxiety, and boost your mood.
Even if you don’t have a mental health disorder, exercise can improve your quality of life. Creating an exercise routine adds structure and predictability to your day, and it can provide an opportunity to get outside and socialize with others. The physical health benefits can make you feel happier, too.
5. Be artistic.
You don’t have to be a professional artist or musician to engage in a creative pursuit. Whether the creative arts are a long-time passion or a brand new hobby, they can be a valuable asset for senior mental health.
Here are some ideas for creative or artistic hobbies you could try out:
• Musical instruments
• Knitting or crocheting
• Creative writing
• Jewelry making
Creative activities are good for senior mental health because you can see the results of your hard work. You put time and effort into developing an artistic skill, and you get to see the final product. The sense of accomplishment can be a great boost for your mental health, and you’ll have something to show off or share with family and friends.
These hobbies can be a cognitive challenge, too. Your cognitive health is closely linked to your mental health, so exercising your mind by learning these new skills can make you feel more alert, engaged, and motivated.
6. Care for a pet.
Pets aren’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t get a pet if you can’t care for them. However, if you like animals, adopting a pet can be an excellent way to improve your mental health.
A pet can be a very soothing and welcoming presence in your home, especially if you live alone. Petting an animal can reduce stress and anxiety, and taking care of your pet can boost your overall mental health. Having someone to care for adds a sense of meaning and purpose to your day, and it helps you stay engaged with the world around you.
7. Speak with a therapist.
Sometimes, senior mental health is manageable with lifestyle changes and social support. Other times, professional help is needed. So many people have struggled with mental health disorders but have learned to cope with them through counseling. People of all ages and backgrounds go to therapy, and the experience can provide great outcomes for senior mental health.
A mental health therapist can offer a safe and private environment for you to explore your emotions. You can work through difficult life events and find coping skills for depression or anxiety. For many seniors, counseling is also an opportunity to connect and communicate with someone else. The regular social contact can improve your cognitive health and add more structure to your life.
If you or a loved one is aging, you should be aware of how important senior mental health is. Strong mental health can make all the difference in your quality of life so that you can truly enjoy your years in retirement. Take small steps every day to work on your emotional and mental health, and reach out for support when you need it.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling offers therapy for seniors. Our counselors specialize in senior mental health and the unique challenges older adults may face. Contact us to learn more about our services.