Since birth, we have certain needs that must be satisfied in order for us to feel good and to maintain our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health. As we age, and the ability of our body to keep up after years of hard work slows down, our needs become more intense.
We are all very similar in our needs. We don’t even need to Google mental health tips for seniors. Seniors have similar basic needs as young people. The importance of mental health for the elderly is important throughout our entire life. What are these needs? Hint: the need for a donut is not one of them!
The noted Psychologist Abraham Maslow distinguished between people’s basic needs and growth needs way back in 1943.
Maslow showed the hierarchy of needs in a pyramid form -- from the most important at the bottom to the least important at the top. Basic needs are the most important; in other words, we need to satisfy them in order to feel good and function normally.
Our basic needs must be satisfied in order for us to feel good. It must be possible for us to eat and drink, to stay warm and dry and safe. If basic needs are not satisfied, it can lead to loneliness and also depression - not to mention many other ailments. Higher-level needs can’t motivate us as long as lower-level needs are not adequately met.
“According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of mental health in older adults aged 55+, it is estimated that 20% of seniors experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment and mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar depression.” Salmon Health & Retirement
So how do we stay mentally fit as we age? And, if we are caring for a loved one, how do we improve the mental health of the elderly? You might be surprised to know that it’s not much more than having a healthy lifestyle - and fewer doughnuts! Healthy aging and good mental health go hand in hand.
Stress is a hard nut to crack. It can be reduced by organizing your everyday life differently or, for example, by rethinking your time management. When it comes to stressful situations, you are usually thrown in at the deep end, making it less easy to avoid stress. However, you can try to influence whether a situation is a strong stress trigger for you. Internal, as well as external tension, can be actively reduced by knowing your limits and sticking to them.
“In a time like this when unavoidable stressors enter our lives due to social distancing and sheltering at home, tending to mental health is paramount. These tips for maintaining good mental health for seniors will remind you to make positive thinking a major part of your everyday routine — and help you find meaningful moments and make the most of these uncertain times.” Edgemere Dallas
If you are physically active on a regular basis, your body stays flexible, and you help reduce stress hormones. You become more relaxed, more balanced and find it easier to rest at night. Healthy sleep makes complaints and worries become smaller.
We can all keep limber as we age, too. There is walking, golf, swimming, water aerobics, pilates, and many more ways to move. Finding a friend and doing something together is much more fun than exercising alone.
Think of your body as a machine. It works best with premium oil (nutrient-rich foods). The brain and all other organs, for example, demand vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to function reasonably and to deal with stress (in any form). If you eat a lot of sugar or don't pay attention to nutrients, you're not doing your brain any favors and you're hurting your mental health.
Food really does affect our mental health. Avocados, broccoli, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate – there are many foods that provide a "good mood" and are good for you! You certainly already have something in your kitchen. If not, then you can walk to the store or meet with a friend and shop together.
Take an art course online. Learn about bird calls. Visit the Musée d'Orsay virtually. Organize your photos. Create your own website. There are many things you can do that will keep your creative juices flowing, distract you in times of boredom, and help against loneliness. Learning and trying out new things help keep us creative and curious, just like we were when we were young.
Phone your neighbor. Run an errand together and accept assistance yourself. Keep in touch with friends. Organize an online card night. Write a postcard every week to someone you know. Invite your family to a virtual brunch. Create a phone chain with family, neighbors, or friends. Arrange to meet your neighbor – even on the balcony or by the window -- for a coffee and a chat. You can remain social in real-time or online, too!
Very Important: Don’t miss appointments, especially with your doctor or therapist - even during COVID.
“It’s critically important for you to stay in touch with your counselor, therapist, family, or doctor if you have an existing health condition. Telemedicine—video or phone chat—is the safest way right now to have an appointment.” NCOA
Self-care is ultimately very personal and individual. You know best what your needs are, where your limits are, which activities are balancing for you, or what gives you strength.
Mindfulness can help you find out exactly that. Start paying more attention to yourself again, starting today: How are you feeling? How do you feel at this moment? How does your body feel? What is bothering you? What do you need right now?
As we age, our physical self always seems to take priority. Something always hurts! It’s important that we don’t neglect our mental, spiritual and emotional sides. Without those, the physical parts aren’t going to get very far!
“Late-life anxiety is not well understood, but is believed to be as common in older adults as in younger age groups (although how and when it appears is distinctly different in older adults). Anxiety in this age group may be underestimated because older adults are less likely to report psychiatric symptoms and more likely to emphasize physical complaints.” CDC
How will you be taking care of yourself today? We’d love to know. Then go ahead and share this with your friends. Want to read more articles like this? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter where we send weekly emails with helpful and fun articles.
Senior Living FYI
Go Live Your Best Life!