With the certainty of winter starting up many seniors need a mental boost to keep their good spirits this time of year. Here are some ideas that might help beat those winter blues!
No matter what age we are, living a life of purpose, connection and joy are critical for our physical and mental well-being. For older adults, various obstacles like vision loss, social isolation, mobility problems, and memory issues can make enjoying life more difficult.
Importance of Mental Health
- Socially isolated seniors have a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline than those who do not experience social isolation (Forbes).
- The health effects of social isolation and loneliness on seniors are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day (AARP.org).
- Depression in the elderly is associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and the risk of death from illness (WebMD).
Signs of depression in seniors can include a change in attitude, self-isolation, weight loss, fatigue, or lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities.
For older adults that want to improve their quality of life through enhanced mental health, there are a few things they can do to kick off their healthy habits.
Exercise – Seniors should always consult with a physician before starting any physical activity or fitness program. Seniors that are able, and approved, to exercise may see increased physical and mental wellness. Exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on the brain. If they belong to a program like Silver Sneakers, which is often free with a Medicare Advantage plan, they get out into the community and see other people.
Connection – At any age, many people find joy in spending time with family and friends. Social isolation can be a problem for seniors who have mobility issues, aren’t able to drive, or have loved ones that live far away. However, there are services that can help overcome these issues, including transportation help, in-home care assistance, and technologies like GrandPad that foster connection. If you live close there is nothing better than to visit as often as possible, and if you have a larger family perhaps put a plan in place to spread out the visits.
Volunteering – Sharing time and talents doing volunteer work can bring a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Many organizations have programs and volunteer opportunities specifically geared toward older adults. Perhaps an organization that involves a favorite hobby like biking might get the volunteer juices flowing. How about rebuilding bikes for children. Bikes for kids has a number of tasks that they need help with from filling bike tires to actual mechanic work that is primarily being done by seniors. They provide bikes to kids that need them all over the metro area and in other countries. Perhaps if you have a green thumb you might be able to help nature centers maintain their indoor plantings during the winter. It never hurts to ask especially at non-profit organizations that are being hit especially hard by inflation this year.
Spending time on joyful activities – Everyone has a different interest or hobby that brings joy, whether that’s music, art, dance, gardening, or games. Seniors should try to spend time doing something that brings them happiness on a daily basis to improve their quality of life. Sometimes everyone needs a little help in finding those things, especially if their mood is down a little.
Keep Mental Health In Mind
While we need to protect the physical health of our senior loved ones, we need to be mindful of caring for mental health and wellness as well. When someone has a good attitude it makes it much more likely they will work on their health--both mind and body!
Science Daily/McMaster University. “Working it Out: Researchers find exercise may help fight depression in seniors.” Web. 2019.
WebMD. “Depression in the Elderly.” Web.
Healthline. “Geriatric Depression (Depression in Older Adults).” Web.