Many people tend to think of physical health when they think of aging - but mental health and physical health are interconnected and both contribute to an individual’s overall well-being. At least 15% of adults over the age of 60 are living with a mental health condition. Considering that the population of seniors is growing and less than half of older adults with mental or substance use disorders currently receive treatment, it’s important to prioritize the mental health of your aging loved one.
Mental Health Challenges for Seniors
Mental health challenges affect people of all ages, but elderly adults are at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders as they experience life changes such as a decline in their physical health or the loss of their sense of self.
The most common mental health challenges in people over the age of 65 include loneliness, isolation, dementia, and depression. Although mental health issues can arise later in life, they don't have to be an inevitable part of aging. There are plenty of activities that you can incorporate into your loved one’s life to encourage mindful aging and help improve their mental well-being.
Getting involved in volunteer opportunities is one of the best ways for your loved one to get involved in their community and contribute to a cause that matters to them. Volunteering has been shown to reduce rates of loneliness and isolation in older adults.
Getting regular exercise is associated with improved mental health. Depending on your loved one’s activity level, encourage them to join a group water aerobics class, take evening walks at a local park, or start a garden. Finding a new hobby will make moving more enjoyable.
Creating art improves independence, self-esteem, and memory in older adults, and may also help improve physical health. Creativity can take many forms, but may include learning an instrument, cooking something new, writing about important memories, visiting museums, getting invested in a crocheting craft at home, or anything else that encourages them to see the world in a new way.
Spend Time with Animals
Owning a pet has been shown to reduce stress levels and increase social interaction, leading to both mental and physical benefits for elderly adults who already have a pet at home. If your loved one doesn't have a pet, consider visiting an animal shelter with them or encouraging them to volunteer for an organization that helps local animals.
Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, brain games, and card games are not only fun, but they’re also great for keeping the mind sharp. Make playing games with your aging loved one even more memorable by inviting the whole family.
Speak to a Therapist
If your aging loved one is facing a mental health challenge, one of the most important things they can do is seek treatment from a mental health professional. It’s important that your loved one has a safe space to express their emotions and learn healthy ways to manage their mental health.
Find Professional Care
For compassionate, in-home care services that keep your aging loved one mentally and physically cared for, consider HomeSpark. We offer companionship services so that we can be there for your loved one even when you are unable to be, spending quality time with them through engaging conversation, getting them moving, and offering transportation so they can get out into their community. Contact HomeSpark today for a customized care plan and to meet our team.