Looking After Your Mental Health in Older Age 

Contributed by: Jane Sandwood

elderly woman with flowersMore than 6 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from some form of depression. For some individuals this can be debilitating or even life-threatening, as depression is a significant predictor of suicide in elderly Americans. Therefore, understanding how to stay fit and healthy is crucial to ensuring older people can make the most of their retirement and maintain a quality of life for as long as possible.

Managing retirement
Not everyone feels ready to retire when the time comes. For a lot of people, their work or career is a huge part of their lives, giving people a sense of self-worth and purpose, financial security, and not to mention a social life. This is why it is important to stay active and maintain a sense of purpose after retirement.

Take up old hobbies or volunteer
It’s the perfect time to take up old hobbies which you may even be able to do as part of a group in your local community, or even try something new. You could also volunteer which can be highly rewarding and a great way to meet people too. Studies show that being part of a community can help you live longer, so it is an important ingredient to both support your wellbeing and increase your longevity.

Time for a pet?
It’s crucially important to stay physically active in your old age. This is one of the best ways to support your continuing mental health. It could even be the right time to get a pet; especially if you will be based more at home. Taking your dog for a walk twice a day, or playing with your pet will help you stay active and give you a sense of purpose at the same time.

The importance of companionship
One of the many benefits of assisted living is the round the clock companionship that it can provide, there is nearly always something to do or someone there to talk to or have a cup of tea with. However, if you live alone at home, it can be harder to keep up social contact.

Stay part of your community
Loneliness among the elderly is a worldwide epidemic and it is certainly a risk factor for developing depression if people become chronically lonely. It’s important to try and stay part of the community for as long as possible, keeping an eye on any local bulletins that advertise community events that might be of interest. Most communities organize activities that are specifically geared around the elderly such as lunch clubs, board games or even ballroom dancing.

Stay in touch
Keeping in touch with neighbors, friends and family to maintain a social circle and support network is important. If however mobility is an issue, making getting out to events difficult, or you don’t have many relatives or friendly faces around, there are many elderly centered charitable organizations that can organize home visits, buddy schemes or even the odd phone call to help keep you company.

Dementia and depression
The chance of experiencing symptoms of a mental illness such as depression is increased for those that have been diagnosed with another illness. Dementia can quite easily cause symptoms of depression if it is not managed properly, so it is important to keep a close eye on this if you have any loved ones who have been diagnosed.

Those diagnosed with dementia can become very frustrated, angry, or upset when struggling to do tasks that were easy before. This gradual cognitive decline can be very distressing and cause individuals to withdraw or become despondent. This is why it is really important to help these individuals stay active and ensure quality of life for as long as possible. There are many brilliantly written and researched books and information available online on how to help your loved one live well with dementia.