Home Mental Health & Well-Being The Importance of Mental Health in Older People

The Importance of Mental Health in Older People

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We all know life is full of challenges, which unfortunately do not stop as you get older. 

But while feelings of sadness and concern are inevitable from time to time, if they begin to prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest, it is important to start prioritising your mental health. 

For seniors, mental health is a crucial part of their overall health and wellness. 

However, depression is a common condition, affecting up to 15% of those aged 65 and over. So, it is clearly not always easy to do. 

Without good mental health, many older Australians are at an increased risk of developing psychological or neurological disorders. As well as afflictions like osteoarthritis, hearing loss and diabetes. In some cases, they can even experience substance abuse problems. 

Therefore, as you enter your twilight years, you would be well advised to develop a strategy that promotes good emotional and physical health. 

In this article, we will outline some of the ways you can do that. To help you live your life to the max.

The better your mental health, the more equipped you are to face life’s challenges. 

Unfortunately, many older people experience dips at some point post-retirement. Typically, this may be triggered by the following: 

  • Chronic illness 
  • Bereavement and grief 
  • Weakening physical capacity 
  • Loss of independence 
  • Financial worries 
  • Social isolation 

Feelings and emotions derived from these issues can also chip away at your confidence and self-esteem. 

While some of these events might be beyond your control, the way you react to them is not. 

There are several steps you can take to improve your overall mental health and well-being, regardless of whether you are living independently, or staying at an aged care facility, like Kew Gardens. All of these will make you much better equipped to deal with what life throws at you.

Being mentally healthy is something we should all focus our efforts on. Here are some tips on how you can do this. Here are some tips to enhance good mental health

Get enough sleep

First things first, getting enough sleep is a very important factor in enhancing your mental health. 

When you sleep you go through a cycle of four stages that plays a part in maintaining and enhancing your brain health. 

Not only does this help you to think and learn better, but it also maintains your memory and has been proven to have a powerful effect on your mental and emotional health. 

This means that when you get enough sleep – and in particular REM sleep – the brain processes emotional information much better. It also improves your powers of emotional reactivity and your general mood, as well as reducing the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Eat healthily

While ensuring you get enough good quality sleep, you should also try to eat healthily too. 

What you eat plays a significant role in the health of your brain and the way it functions. So, try and add more minerals, vitamins, fibre and healthy fats to your diet. 

Research has shown that those who maintain a healthy eating pattern tend to deal better with stress, have a higher level of concentration and enjoy a more positive mental well-being. 

If you can, try to reduce your intake of fried food, processed meat, pastries, dairy products that are high in fat, refined cereals and lollies. Instead, the more fruit, vegetables, fish and fibre-rich grains you can eat the better.

Exercise and be active

There is a clear link between good physical health and good mental health. So, you would be well advised to regularly exercise and generally stay active. 

Doing this has been proven to diminish the symptoms of anxiety and depression. As well as enhancing one’s overall mental well-being. 

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals like serotonin and endorphins which give a quick boost to your mood. 

It also gets you out of the house, thus reducing any feelings of social isolation and loneliness and giving you the opportunity to interact with other people.  

Your sleep patterns may also be enhanced too.

Visit nature

Whether it be a stroll in the local park, or a hike in the woods, immersing yourself in nature has several benefits. 

This includes putting yourself in a better mood, lowering your levels of stress, reducing the chances of you suffering from a psychiatric disorder and improving your attention span. 

Whenever you can, try and get out into nature. Seniors who do generally experience a greater sense of calm, increased joy and a more positive outlook on life. 

They also exhibit fewer symptoms of poor mental health, depression and anxiety.

Build relationships

At all stages of life, having good relationships with people goes a long way to maintaining your mental well-being. 

This is especially true for seniors who may no longer have the network of friends, family or work colleagues they once might have. 

Although it will take a bit of effort, if you invest the time to develop friendships with others it can open significant doors for you. 

This could range from going out more and trying new experiences to developing a network of people who can assist you in a time of need.

Cut toxic people out of your life

While you are making the effort to spark new friendships, be sure to cut out toxic people from your life as much as you can. 

Toxic people can cause you a lot of stress and emotional difficulties. Which is an avoidable stress you do not need to take on. 

If you can’t completely cut them out of your life, try and limit contact with them at the very least. 

A good way to do this is to fill your life with interesting and fun experiences and spend more time with the people whose company you enjoy. 

Find a purpose

Throughout our lives, we’ve usually held one, if not more roles of responsibility – often concurrently. 

This might have been as a parent, a business owner or an employee and even as part of a sports team, social committee or another type of organisation. 

However, after retirement and especially when your children have left the nest, one can start to feel a bit lost. This in turn can affect your sense of self-worth and mental health. Which is why it is important to find a purpose. 

For this reason, it is worth trying to find a new calling. This could be volunteering at your local church, producing artwork to sell at the local market, or writing an informative blog about a topic you are knowledgeable about. 

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to do it with gusto!

Reduce stress

We’ve all been stressed at times when life has thrown us a curveball or just gotten plain tough. 

However, as you get older, the more stress you endure the greater your risk of depression and anxiety. 

A contributing factor is that the less you have to think about it, the more acute any issues that do pop up become. This is because they tend to be given a more prominent place in our thoughts than they should otherwise hold. 

Therefore, take steps to reduce stress from your life by cutting out or limiting exposure to the people who cause it, postponing potential stressful life changes like moving home and spending more time doing the things you enjoy.

Seek help

If you do find yourself struggling, it is important to seek help. 

Mental health issues are never something you should deal with alone. So where possible talk to family members or friends. 

Alternatively, if you would prefer to confide in a professional, make an appointment to see a doctor or a counsellor. They are experts at guiding seniors like you back on the path to living your best life.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.


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