No matter what age we are, living a life of purpose, connection, and joy is critical for our physical and mental well-being. For older adults, a variety of obstacles like vision loss, hearing loss, social isolation, mobility problems, and memory issues can make enjoying life more difficult.
When I first acquired my Comfort Keepers franchise, I was immediately impressed by the power of interaction in caregiving. It goes beyond routine senior in-home care tasks, elevating them into meaningful opportunities for engaging in conversations and activities that enrich seniors' lives physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. This is a process that families naturally do with their loved ones when they do something simple like ask “How is Uncle Joe doing” while they dust his photograph. They are stimulating memories and conversation. The significance of these interactions cannot be overstated, especially in the area of mental health. Establishing emotional connections through regular communication and involvement plays a pivotal role in a senior's overall well-being. When seniors feel emotionally connected, they are more likely to prioritize aspects of their health, such as nutrition, medication, and exercise.
Conversations and activities, when tailored to the senior's interests, become a catalyst for maintaining a positive outlook on life. Doing things with a senior is way different than doing it for them. Asking them what their favorite meal is and then having them help make it, to the extent they can, is a key part of maintaining independence. When it’s cooking the aroma stirs old memories–which can bring about wonderful conversations.
The connection between mental well-being and the motivation to engage in self-care is undeniable. When seniors are emotionally invested in their lives, they are more inclined to take proactive steps toward their health, recognizing the importance of nutrition, adhering to medication regimens, and participating in regular exercise.
Why is it important for seniors to focus on their 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 risk of death from illness (WebMD).
Once you have them engaged you can work 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 a physician before starting any physical activity or fitness program. Seniors who 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. We sponsored a program on simple exercises several years ago. They are still online–check them out!
Connection– At any age, many people enjoy spending time with family and friends. Social isolation can be a problem for seniors who have mobility issues aren’t able to drive, have loved ones that live far away, or no one visits. Some services can help overcome these issues, including transportation help, in-home care assistance, technology that fosters connection, religious-based groups, county respite groups, and other outside sources of help.
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 to older adults. Reading to children, working in a library, assisting with a religious organization, etc.
Spending time on joyful activities– Everyone has a different interest or hobby that brings joy, whether music, art, dance, gardening, or games. Seniors should try to spend time doing something that brings them happiness daily to improve their quality of life. For some of us that is going back to do the things we enjoyed when we were raising our families--but now we need a little help. Going to children's sporting activities, alumni sports events, or out for coffee.
Vision and Hearing Loss–Excellent new technology exists to help with both. Hearing loss often was not correctable when the hearing aid turned up the background noise as much as the voices you wanted to hear. Now with noise reduction, the background noise can be greatly reduced and allow you to make out what is being said--it might be time to check out the new technology. For a minimal fee, you can try the new hearing aids for 45-60 days before you decide to buy them. If they have suffered from bad vision and glasses don’t help enough, it might be time to check out an eyecare consultant who may have new options available to help.
For the well-being of senior individuals sons, daughters, caregivers and other family members must regularly interact with them. Such connections play a pivotal role in supporting their mental health and overall emotional welfare.
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.