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How to stay mentally healthy as a senior

Mental health, what is it?

Over the last decades, mental health has been put more into focus. As people live longer it has become more important to stay mentally healthy, as well as leading a healthy life. 

To describe mental health in more technical terms, it means to be aware of emotions, psychological well-being, and social well-being. Basically, mental health affects how we think, act, and feel. 

Staying mental healthy as a senior

Staying mentally healthy, as you grow older can become harder. Maybe there are a lot of external factors you have to deal with. Factors you don’t have any control over, but issue’s you have to take into consideration, such as diseases and illnesses.

There are a lot of different ways to stay mentally healthy. One of these is focusing on the things you are grateful for. As we all grow older and live longer, we might experience losing people and things we were very fond of. 

"As soon as you stop taking things for granted, you can enjoy what you have, even more"

Benefits of staying mentally healthy and active

stay mentally healthy

Just as your body benefits from staying healthy, so does your mental health. A way to do so by engaging in mental fitness.

Mental fitness will help you stay on top of your game brain-wise. When people are mentally healthy, they can enjoy their life end environment even more, as well as the people in it. You can be creative, learn new things, try new things, and you are also more willing to take risks. It even affects your ability to cope with difficult times.

"Being healthy mentally can prevent problems that are associated with chronic physical illness"

In some case’s it can even prevent onset or relapses of a physical or mental illness such as stress. If you are aware of your stress reactions and know how to prevent them, this can have a positive impact on other illnesses such as heart diseases.

Stay mentally healthy with wellness

Wellness is a lot of things. What it basically means is the process of changing towards a healthy and fulfilling life. Not only does it mean being happy and healthy, but it is also a dynamic process of change and growth.

Wellness, why does it matter?

It matters because everything you or your parents, grandparents, neighbors, etc. do and every emotion you feel, is directly linked to your well-being. And in turn, your well-being affects your emotions and actions, thus making it an ongoing circle. Therefore it is important for everyone, no matter age, to achieve optimal wellness. This will then assist you in overcoming stress, reduce your risk of illnesses, and ensure positive interactions with others.

wellness for seniors

Diseases

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent a lot of different diseases. Down below we have listed some of the most common diseases:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart diseases
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Depression

Of course, there are a lot more, but I have only included some. Down below I’ve explained some of these diseases in further detail.

Dementia

Dementia is a disease, which more and more seniors are dealing with. But what is it actually?

The first thing to know about dementia is that this the general term, to which a lot of different illnesses are connected.

Dementia affects your mental abilities and you will experience a decline in mental functions. You might not notice it your self, but maybe your surroundings will.

Maybe someone in your family or neighborhood will start to experience some different symptoms. These could include memory loss and a decline in thinking skills to where they affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. These are symptoms that can be associated with dementia.

"Usually 60 to 80 percent of dementia diseases are directly linked to Alzheimer’s disease"

The second most common dementia type is vascular dementia, which typically occurs after a stroke. If you are in doubt or need more information about dementia, you should always contact your doctor!

Alzheimer’s disease

Where dementia is the over-all term, Alzheimer’s is a more specific diagnosis. According to different studies, more than 1 in 3 seniors will experience this type of dementia.

"Research has shown that Alzheimer’s begins years before the symptoms start to show"

Alzheimer’s is a mental disease where you, and your surroundings, will experience that your memory and ability to remember will gradually become weaker. How fast the Alzheimer’s will progress is different from person to person. But more often than not the diseases will progress slowly.

older man worried

Just as our body change with age, so does our brain. Having a harder time remembering certain information’s or things that have happened is normal. As soon as the forgetfulness affects your everyday abilities or people in your surroundings start to worry, you should see a doctor. You can also click here to read more about Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 6.5 million American seniors suffer from depression. Even though so many are affected only about 10% receive treatment. How can this be?

Depression is a serious illness, and should not be left untreated. But what causes depressions in seniors?

The kids are all grown up and moved out, you’ve retired from your job and you might find it hard to keep busy and engaged. Depression can come sneaking and it can be tough finding a way out. Often depression also accommodates other medical illnesses, which makes it even harder to break the cycle.

Usually, depression is also associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and the risks of dying from different illnesses. It also reduces your ability to rehabilitate.

"Exercise is essential for both the body and mind"

According to experts staying healthy both physically and mentally, as well as socially active, are all keys for a better mental health. 

Exercise comes in many different forms. Walking and biking are especially good for seniors, because it puts less strain on your joints, and lets you build your stamina slowly but steadily.

Staying active is also a good way to socialize. If you join a class or a group you can meet new people while exercising and staying healthy.

Death - How can you deal with it?

Death is such a big and loaded topic. Maybe it’s on your mind, maybe you don’t like to talk, or even think about it. But the matter of the fact is, death is inevitable.

The best way to deal with death is to simply talk about it. Talk about your fears, your wants, and your desires. By letting the people around you know what’s on your mind, you will also be less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

By thinking, and talking, about death you might eliminate some of the fears that are associated with the topic. If you accept death, it might make it easier for you to find peace, meaning, and joy in your life.

senior woman dealing with death

When facing death most people are concerned for the people they will leave behind. They hope that their surrounding will find peace and comfort after they are gone.

The one concern most people have about dying is the pain there might be. Most people prefer a peaceful and painless death. But because medicine is so advanced today, this is also the reality for the majority of seniors.

Unfortunately worrying is not going to change the fact, but having talked about death can improve your quality of life. It can also provide peace, both to you but also your surrounding.

Tips to stay mentally healthy

There are a lot of different ways to stay mentally healthy. One of the best ways is to keep your brain active, while also staying physically active.

Another great way of taking care of your mental health is by eating well and maintaining a sensible diet.

You should also keep your social life active. Seeing friends, family, neighbors, etc. is a great way to stay in touch, while also tending to your social needs as a human. Doing something you are good at can also boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Dating can also be a great way to meet new people and prevent you from feeling lonely. 

"Taking up a new hobby, such as learning a new language or playing an instrument, is an excellent way to keep your brain active"

This translates into staying healthy mentally.

Exercise your brain

Over time, and with aging, also comes the loss of cognitive reserve. Just as your body age, so does our brains atrophy. With these changes also comes the difficulty of performing mental tasks.

exercise your brain with puzzles

According to a study published in Neurology, researchers believe that staying physically active is directly linked to mental health. The study also showed that people over 60 who are physically active are more likely to maintain their motor skills.

Another way to stay mentally healthy is by exercising your brain. There are different ways of doing just that, and here we have listed some tips:

  1. Test your recall – make a list of groceries or things you need to do, and remember the items by heart.
  2. Play music – learn how to play an instrument or join a choir.
  3. Learn a new language – learning new vocabulary has been linked to a reduced risk in cognitive decline.
  4. Do math – use your brain to figure out math problems. If you want to add another dimension to it, try walking at the same time.
  5. Take a cooking class – by involving your different senses you also stimulate your brain,
  6. Challenge your taste buds – try identifying the different ingredients in your food.
  7. Draw a map from memory – after visiting a new place try to draw a map of the place.
  8. Redefine your hand-eye abilities – take up a new hobby where you involve your fine motor-skills such as knitting, crocheting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
  9. Create word pictures – visualized the spelling of a word, then try and think of another word that begins or ends with the same two letters.
  10. Learn a new sport – do an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body, such as yoga, golf, or tennis.

Audiobooks

Reading is one of the most enjoyed pastime favorites for American adults.

"Since January 2018 almost 1 in 5 people have been listening to audiobooks as appose to reading a physical book"

But why should you choose an audiobook instead of a regular book?

Man listening to an audiobook

We have listed some benefits of listening to audiobooks down below:

  • Multi-tasking – By listening to an audiobook you are able to engage in other activities at the same time. This could be gardening, cleaning, exercising and so on.
  • Another way of storytelling – Usually an audiobook is read by a professional who will make the book come alive by using different voices for the different characters. This bears a resemblance to the old radio productions that your parents might have listened to back in the day.
  • A pastime for your commute or journey – enjoy yourself while traveling from one place to another of on the commute to your job.
  • Stories activate your brain – By listening to stories different parts of your brain will be activated. Your imaginary skills will come to life, and in some cases, it is easier to imagine the different scenes when somebody else is reading.

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