When it comes to aging, few things beat the freedom and independence retirement can bring. As rates of chronic illness go up for older adults, however, many find themselves with gripping anxiety or depression which they often keep from their physicians and primary doctors. Concerns over health, safety, and money lead to social isolation, sedentary lifestyles, and other risky factors that cyclically feed into poor health outcomes.
If you or a senior you know are overwhelmed with life’s constant hurdles, keep these tips in mind:
Address sources of anxiety
Did you know that hearing loss can often be a major source of stress for a senior? A survey of over 3,500 seniors with hearing issues and their friends and family found that those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids had much higher rates of psychosocial disorders including worry, paranoia and depression compared those who did use hearing instruments.
Not being able to fully hear can lead a senior to misinterpret conversations, to feel anxious or nervous about taking part in social activities, and to have a false sense of others being angry with them. Other common sources of anxiety in seniors may include:
- Fear of falling
- Cognitive decline
- Loss of independence
- Fear of being alone
- Financial strain
- Health concerns
Understanding not just that anxiety exists, but what the true source or worry and concern is, can help seniors and their friends, family, and care network find a path towards addressing the root issue and seeking medical help as necessary.
If all the willpower you have in the world goes into one thing as you age, make it staying active. Researchers are finding that regular exercise, whether it’s in the form of a daily walk or a regular yoga class, continues to reveal layer after layer of mental and physical health benefits, especially for seniors. A recent study published in the journal Neuropsychologia suggests that even a mere 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise can have immediate cognitive benefits, which is good news for older adults with mobility issues which may limit their bouts of physical activity.
Routine fitness has also been shown to increase endorphin production (feel good hormone) in the brain, and boost confidence levels and mood. Whether it is feeling better about your own health and wellbeing or connecting with others socially through a fitness class or group exercise (i.e. yoga, hiking, dancing, etc), staying active can play an integral role in the battle against senior anxiety and depression.
Get a medical alert system
A fear of falling in the home or of being alone during an emergency can put many seniors on edge and keep anxiety levels unnecessarily high. Medical alert systems, in turn, can provide some peace of mind (for seniors and their caregivers), as well as equip seniors with the tools they need to contact help immediately in the case of an emergency.
Medical alert systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from freestanding emergency autodialers to personal wearables to pagers and call buttons. A base which plugs in somewhere in the home typically transmits a signal with a range that reaches the entire house and some of the outside surroundings. In the event of an emergency, a senior can press a button on their medical alert device and emergency services or pre-saved numbers will be contacted right away. The 9 best medical alert bracelets and necklaces provide nifty features like two-way communication, increased signal range, custom lights and alarm noises, GPS location tracking, and more.
Create a routine
When the next step in your day is somewhat expected, it can lower the threshold of “worry” which might accompany a senior who is experiencing anxiety, frustration, and stress. A structured framework for the day also offers seniors with cognitive decline or conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia more control over their schedule, possibly preventing confusion, disorientation, and outbursts that are so common with those disorders.
A daily routine can simply be waking at the same time each day and following a set of steps in order like going to the bathroom, getting dressed, taking pills, making the bed, eating breakfast, going for a walk, attending a class or program, etc. The repetitive nature of a routine helps to engrain those daily activities into muscle memory and helps a senior have a grounded expectation of what comes next in their day so they feel prepared and at ease. Even periods of “free time” can be scheduled intervals of a couple hours in the afternoon where it is best to schedule doctor’s appointments, plan outings, or let seniors enjoy the freedom of choosing something fun they want to do (which boosts self-reliance and outlook).