The 13th-19th May is the Mental Health Foundation‘s Mental Health Awareness week. With an increasingly elderly population, the concerns around mental health in older adults are something we should all be aware of. Here you’ll find some information about what can affect mental health in later life and the best ways to protect your own mental wellness. You’ll also find tips if you want to help friends or relatives who may be experiencing feelings of depression or other mental health problems.
Issues Affecting Mental Health in Older Adults
‘Body Image’ is the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign. Whilst a great number of over 50s continue to lead an active lifestyle, there are many over 50s who start to experience signs of physical deterioration or a decline in health at this age.
This change in physical ability, and sometimes physical appearance, can have an impact on general well-being, with factors like discrimination, participation, loneliness, and finances having the biggest impact on mental health in the older population.
How to Look After Your Mental Health in Later Life
Entering later life can bring a number of changes with it. From starting your retirement to losing a loved one, major life changes are more likely to happen the older you get.These changes make over 50s most vulnerable to developing mental health problems. 1 in 5 people over 65 in the community are affected by depression or a mental health concern. Here we’ve some suggestions to help you prepare for some of the most significant issues that may impact on your mental health.
Whilst nothing in life is a given, there may be things you can predict and plan for. Having a plan for later life changes will help you to focus and be prepared for what’s to come:
- Will your retirement be filled with childcare and DIY projects around the house? Think about how much time you’ll get to yourself so you’re not feeling overstretched.
- Are you likely to miss chatting with friends and colleagues in work every day? Look into local sports and social groups as an opportunity to meet new people. Or maybe it’s the perfect time take up that new hobby or interest you’ve always talked about.
- Are you worrying about how you’ll manage your finances once you retire? Make suitable financial arrangements and write a will.
Don’t keep things bottled up and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Keeping things to yourself can be unhelpful in maintaining your mental health. Open up to friends, family, carers, or a local trusted counsellor about anything that’s worrying you. You might want to discuss how you feel following a bereavement or talk about any health concerns you may have. If you’re concerned that your mental health is deteriorating, you can ask a medical professional for more information about memory loss and dementia and get advice. You can also get advice and support from a range of UK charity organisations like Age UK.
STAY ACTIVE AND KEEP WELL
Getting the heart pumping and boosting serotonin levels, exercise is a fantastic way to boost your mood. From a short walk to joining a gym, there are so many options for people of all ages and abilities to stay active. If you’ve not had a regular exercise regime in place, try partnering up with friends or family for a stroll around the block to get you started. Or contact your local council sports development team to look at options for suitable low impact activities like yoga or walking football and rugby to introduce a new sport and new people into your life.
Your diet is also important in maintaining your mental health. Eating a varied diet packed with a range of nutrients and staying hydrated is crucial in promoting your mental wellness. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and too much sugar as they can suppress your mood or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
GET SOME SLEEP AND FIND TIME TO RELAX
With all that talk about activity, rest is also just as important. Having a healthy sleep routine gives your brain and body a chance to recharge. Getting enough sleep should help with your mood and concentration too. Aim to go to bed at the same time each evening, and avoid using electrical devices or watching TV too late in the evening. Adopting healthy sleep habits should help to ensure an undisturbed sleep pattern through the night.
If you’re also find the weekly routine is getting too much, make sure to take some time for a break. Changing up your routine can be a source of relief (‘a change is as good as a rest’ and all that). It could be something simple like watching a local sports team or going to the cinema. Or something more extravagant like a last minute weekend away or holiday abroad – go grab the sun cream.
Maintaining your independence in your own home is also helpful in managing mental health in older adults. Home adaptations like a stairlift can be an easy way to keep you doing more for yourself for longer. Speak to the team at Halton Stairlifts to find out whether there’s a straight stairlift or curved stairlift to suit your home and staircase.