According to the World Health Organization, the number of people aged 60 and over is expected to double by 2050. Research has traditionally focused on reducing physical risk factors to ward off chronic disease in those joining the ranks of our aging population.
This article will focus primarily on psycho-social activities you can increase doing which have been proven to aid in healthy aging. It will also incorporate mental health tips that will better your chances of living a good life in your advanced years.
It Begins With Physical Health
Although you will learn mental health tips for successful aging, we have to start with your daily activities which involves taking good care of your body. To assist you in living your best life in your senior years, adopt these habits for a healthy lifestyle:
- Exercise regularly and be active.
- Spend more time standing.
- Eat nutritiously.
- Get enough sleep.
- Go to sleep and wake up the same time each day.
- Live smoke-free.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol.
- Go for regular doctor check-ups.
The New Focus on Psychology and Resilience
To promote healthy aging and resiliency, researchers have found we need to expand our understanding of psychological and social well-being. Rather than do studies exclusively about cutting risk factors for chronic disease (evidence suggests that disability is increasing and life expectancy levels are decreasing), we have to include other factors.
These other factors include resilience, psychosocial well-being and social well-being. By including these factors, scientists believe they can find new ways to enhance quality of life and the prolonged health of seniors.
Maintain Social Connections
An essential way to age in a healthy manner is to continue to interact with family and friends. Because older adults might suffer from hearing or vision loss, or not be able to drive at night, it’s important they don’t feel socially isolated.
Social isolation and loneliness can have dire consequences. The National Institute on Aging says social isolation and loneliness have been linked to higher risks for heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Being socially active is important for older adults. Building social networks can boost self-esteem and increase physical activity.
Research about older adults cultivating new social ties found that developing new social contacts was associated with improved (self-reported) physical and psychological well-being.
An easy way to keep those connections strong is to call your family members once a week and either text or email a friend or new social contact every day or two. Just be sure to strengthen and nurture your relationships.
Learn New Things for Healthy Cognitive Function
In a study of adults 60 and older, scientists aimed to find out if sustained engagement in learning cognitively demanding novel skills over a period of time would improve cognitive function. Participants learned to quilt, do digital photography, or engaged in both activities for an average of 16.51 hours a week for 3 months.
The findings show clear evidence that sustained engagement in these challenging and new activities did enhance participants’ memory function. But limited benefits were shown for sustained engagement in social activities.
So, engaging your mind in educational activities is a big positive for your brain. That could mean learning a new craft, instrument or skill. Learning in this way might be key to maintaining healthy cognitive function as you age.
Keep Stress At Bay
We all get stressed at times in our life. The important thing is to find ways to deal with it better to support healthy aging because stress has many negative consequences. Here are typical, but not good ways to deal with stress.
Unhealthy reactions to stress might include these behaviors:
- Drinking alcohol
- Turning to drugs
- Starving yourself
- Becoming compulsive about shopping or sex
Rather than let stress build up and adversely affect you, incorporate these actions in your everyday life to prevent stress:
- Begin practicing mindfulness meditation
- Exercise to relieve frustrations
- Dance or listen to music
- Write in a journal
- Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs
- Practice gratitude
- Maintain optimism
Treat Feelings of Depression
Common causes for depression in older adults are the the death of a spouse, family member, friend or pet. Dealing with health issues, changes in the body and the natural process of aging might also cause sadness and depression.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is a treatable medical condition, “not a normal part of aging.”5 Seek out a mental health counselor if you think you’re depressed. They will be there to help you.
Unfortunately, seniors might feel they’re just getting old. Or they might not even realize they’re depressed. If you feel emptiness, numbness, lose sleep or your appetite, these could also be symptoms of depression.
If seniors recognize they’re depressed, they could very well refuse treatment. A recent survey showed that older adults wouldn’t seek help for their depression.
To prevent yourself from falling into a state of depression, fortify yourself with these actions alongside traditional forms of treatment such as therapy:
- Find meaning in your life
- Volunteer for a cause you believe in (very beneficial for seniors)
- Enjoy your hobbies, collections and interests
- Tell someone you love them
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable with those close to you
- When you start to feel down, reach out to someone at that moment
- Keep a positive attitude
- Give yourself self-care
- Watch a funny movie to distract yourself
- Use laughter as a coping mechanism
Do all those leisure activities that you had no time to do while you were working. Go to a jazz concert or a play. Or dance to a garage band. The arts have been shown to promote well-being.
You should take that creative writing class you always wanted to take. Or sign up for the painting class at the local art center. Creativity positively impacts your health. Artistic activities have been linked to improved memory and resilience in older adults. These activities even aided seniors with dementia.
Older adults should not hesitate to tap into their resilience. By using your strengths and past history, you can better cope with your challenges and problem solve.
Incorporating these mental health tips can help you age in a healthy manner. Seniors can now look forward to a better quality of life by taking care of their physical health and safeguarding their mental health.
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