The mental health of older adults isn’t a topic that gets much attention, but it should: Depression in seniors is on the rise, with rates expected to double by 2050.
The scariest part: A lot of seniors assume that feeling depressed is a normal part of aging. As a result, they don’t get help when their mental health declines. Only 10 percent of seniors who experience mental health issues ever seek treatment.
There are a lot of reasons why a senior’s mental health may be challenged, but perhaps the biggest threat to senior mental health is stigma. Most older adults weren’t raised to see mental health as important, and as a result, they’re less likely to seek help or take steps to keep their minds healthy. The truth is that older adults deserve mental wellness just as much as everyone else — and that means paying more attention to mental health, not less, as you age.
Are you ready to take the reins on your mental health? These are the five things everyone should do to maintain a healthy mind while growing older.
Exercise is one of the fastest ways to lift your spirits, and it’s also great for overall mental health. In addition to its direct impacts on mental health, regular exercise helps seniors stave off the physical changes that make aging so challenging. Even seniors with different physical limitations can find ways to stay active; for example, adaptive yoga and tai chi are two mind-body practices that nearly any senior can participate in.
Everyone should eat a balanced diet to promote overall health, but for older adults, eating food that’s good for the brain is especially important. Some of the best foods for brain health include dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens; antioxidant-rich dark fruits like blueberries, plums, and cherries; and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and oily fish.
Good friends are great at cheering us up when we’re down, but it turns out that friendships are more important to mental health than most people realize. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to stay socially active as you age, especially for seniors who live alone or have physical limitations. Instead of struggling to get by alone, seniors should look into assisted living where they can not only get care but become part of a community. Pay attention to the social environment when searching for communities as it’s one of the best hints to what living there will be like. If necessary, enlist an advisor to help you find the best facilities.
Aging throws a lot of challenges your way. If you let them get to you, it can be a drain on your mental well-being. Mindfulness takes a senior’s mind away from pain and worries so they can let go of stress and feel more in control of life. Meditation is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness, but mindfulness can be incorporated into nearly everything you do./
One of the best things older adults can do for their mental health is to talk about it. Seniors should talk to their doctor about changes to their mental health and take advantage of the free depression screenings offered by Medicare. Seniors should also talk to each other and to their loved ones about their mental well-being and the many ways that growing older tests it. Because although getting older can feel lonely at times, it’s something we all experience someday. Instead of fighting a silent battle, make mental health part of the conversation.