By Nancy Swayze, MD
Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of mental health in adults age 55 or greater, 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 disorder.
Medical professionals know that common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can have a negative impact on the actual physical health and wellness of older adults. Mood disorders and other mental health issues can lead to impairments in physical, mental and social functioning and also complicate the treatment of other chronic disorders. This is why it is important for older individuals to seek help when they are experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions.
As we age, here are some ways to support our mental health:
- Be Physical. Exercise and physical activity benefit both the mind and the body. Exercise has been proven to help manage stress, anxiety and depression in seniors. From taking regular walks to yoga classes and more strenuous exercise such as hiking, swimming, or bike-riding can promote good mental health.
- Cultivate Friendships. Keep in touch with friends and loved ones as much as possible. Staying social is a key way to combat loneliness and feelings of isolation that can lead to depression in some people. With social media, it’s never been easier to connect and applications like FaceTime and Zoom are also helpful ways to stay in touch. Even old-fashioned letters and phone calls are good ways to maintain relationships.
- Care for a Pet. Experts believe that the bond between pets and their owners can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring increased happiness. Studies recognized by the CDC have shown that owning a pet can offer measurable health benefits including decreased blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Other benefits include reduced feelings of loneliness and better cognitive function. Pets, especially dogs, also give their owners motivation to get outside and exercise.
- Eat Health Foods. Researchers are learning more and more about the importance of a good diet for mental health and overall vitality. Cutting out or reducing your intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates and heavily processed foods and replacing them with fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein, healthy fats and whole grains can really make an impact on your physical and mental health.
- Volunteer. Many older adults find fulfillment in volunteering for a variety of causes and organizations. From working with children at the local library to helping out a local food pantry or animal shelter, volunteering is a great way to stay active and be engaged in the community.
About Nancy Swayze, MD – Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Geriatricians are doctors who specialize in the medical care of patients over the age of 65. At Reliant Medical Group, our geriatricians work inside nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) helping to provide care for our older patients. Geriatricians are experts at dealing with arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility issues, memory loss and other problems that can affect the elderly. They can also help seniors deal with the...View profile View posts by this doctor