Does age affect mental health? Aging induces inevitable changes in your body. You develop wrinkles on your forehead, neck, arms, and tummy.
Your muscles turn to mush, and you start sagging around your arms, stomach, and thighs.
Old age makes your brain function like an outdated version of an Intel processor – slow. Your visuals get blurry, your audio less audible. Logging in is slow, computing power sluggish and its firewall not as effective. All these make you prone to a virus intrusion.
The good news is that old does not diminish your intellect or change your emotions in any way. In fact, new studies show that, like wine or cheese, age improves your mental health.
If you find this contradictory, read on and get to know the following:
– Mental health risk factors
– Signs of mental health disorders
– How to be mentally healthy in old age
Read on to know more about this important topics…
What is Mental Health
Mental health is the level of your emotional, psychological and social well-being.
It is an expression of how you think, feel and act. It affects the way you handle stress, relates to others and makes choices.
Most old people do not care so much about mental health. They think depression or anxiety are signs of aging, not mental health disorders.
They are mental health disorders and they are serious issues facing an aging world. Today, about 16% of adults aged 60 and above suffer from a mental disorder. This figure is going to grow as more people reach retirement age.
Do you want to be one of them?
Mental Health Risk Factors
On the surface, retirement is great. But your extra idle time can also be a risk to your mental health. On top of that, here are a few more threats to your mental health:
- Health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic pains in the joints, neck, back, shoulders, and nerves
- Side-effects of medication
- Loss of income, relationship, independence, self-worth, mobility, etc.
- Change in living arrangement, i.e., independent living to a nursing facility
- Social isolation
- Anniversaries of traumatic or sorrowful events and experiences
Signs of Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders are treatable if detected early – which is rarely the case. Most of the time, they are often taken as parts of aging. They are not. And if you want to stay mentally healthy, you must be wary of these early warning signs:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Shying away from people and usual activities
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Smoking or drinking more than usual
- Get into harmful drugs
- Having confused, forgetful, edgy, angry, or scared
- Showing episodes of emotional outbursts against family or friends
- frequent mood swings that affect relationships
- unable to get rid of negative thoughts or old memories
- old memories and emotional Excessive indulgence of
- hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- thinking of harming oneself
- inability to do daily routine tasks
How to Stay Mentally Healthy in Old Age
Mental health disorders is not a pervasive problem among the elderly. In fact, only about 15% of people over 60 and above suffer from any of its variants. Which means you can be as mentally healthy as the rest of the pack.
Here are simple ways to do that:
Prepare for the inevitable changes in your life
Being old and stepping entire retirement is like transitioning into a different world. It was only a week ago when you are up to your neck with work, now you have so much time doing nothing.
It seems only yesterday when your home rang with the chatter of your children, now it is empty and hollow. And you are alone.
These sudden changes can affect your mental health in ways you never expected. They could make you lonely, and drive you into a depression.
Talk to someone
Unleash some your simmering thoughts and feelings by talking to someone. It will help you rationalize some of your thoughts and make sense of your situation. You will feel supported, and not alone.
But be careful who to talk to. People often have the tendency of spreading other people’s miseries. So only talk to…
- close family members and friends
- a specialist, someone who can help you in a professional way
- someone who shares your concerns
- a person who can keep things confidential
When you talk to someone, do it in a conversational way. Open up yourself, don’t hold back.
And listen. A good conversation is a two-way street. A monologue will defeat the purpose. Besides, nobody would want to talk to you next time.
Don’t confine your conversation to your problems either. Talk about something else to steer mind away from what’s bugging you.
Ask for help
The saying “no man is an island” is as real as it can be when you are old and saddled with mental and physical problems.
So ask for help if things become too heavy for you to lift alone.
Ask for help from…
- family and friends – your first line of defense against mental health disorders
- health professionals – your doctor or you psychotherapist (if you have one)
- support groups – these are organizations near you who can give you priceless help
- online – go online and search for sites of forums that discuss similar problems
Have a plan
A plan allows you to focus on the bigger issues about your physical and mental health. It rids you of the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living.
For example, you must plan for your…
- Retirement – at home, or in a care center,
- Health and mobility
- Financial management
- Access to local facilities and transport
- Personal care when you can no longer do it yourself
- End-of-life arrangements such as wills and funerals
Keep in touch
Don’t be a hermit. Keep in touch with old friends and associates. Talk about the good old day, the current state of affairs of the world or the latest trend in technology.
Or get their own perspective of the situation you are in. Things always look different from another pair of eyes.
Keeping in touch with your friends is a positive way to maintain good mental and physical health.
Exercise and have enough sleep
Exercise enough sleep can help you maintain good physical and mental health.
A regular exercise…
- boosts self-esteem, raise self-worth and self-confidence
- helps lower your blood pressure, enhances your immune system and many others
- promotes better sleep
- allows you to meet people.
It does not have to be in a gym or wear expensive outfits. It does not even have to be any of those signature exercise routines. You can do it at home, or around the neighborhood. the objective is to make your brain produce more of the “feel good” enzymes, your heart beat a little faster, your sweat flowing.
A good night’s sleep allows your body and mind to rest, allows it to repair and energize itself. And lack of it results to…
- poor concentration
- bad mood and irritability
- feelings of lethargy
- weakened immune system
Have a good diet and drink moderately
What you eat and drink affects you. Thus, you need a mixture of nutrients for your mind and body to function well.
You can do that by having at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
If you must drink alcoholic beverages, do so. But keep it within limits. In fact, a drink or two of alcohol each day is good for you. Beyond that, it can do irreparable damage to both body and mind.
Dehydration is one of the ten most common causes of elderly hospitalization in the U.S. When you hydrate yourself, stick to plain water. Sweetened drinks or those with caffeine have negative effects on your well-being.
Do things that you enjoy
Doing things you enjoy can make you feel good about yourself, about life. And it can keep your body and mind active.
Whatever it is, do it. It could be a hobby, interest or a pastime activity.
Travel if you have the itch and the energy to do so. Get into a relationship to give color and meaning to life.
If work fires you up, then work either full time or part-time.
The aim is to maintain or improve your mental health by keeping it occupied. Nothing deteriorates your mind more than boredom and idleness.
Relax and take a break
Retirement is the time to go easy, to relax. But it is not a time to do nothing.
Be on your toes to do something you are still capable of doing, at a slower pace. You are no longer the powerhouse a few years back. Now you are like a battery-operated train that needs a regular battery re-charging.
So relax every now and then and enjoy life – that is the secret to a good mental health in old age.
In the Cilento region of southern Italy lives a unique group of people. They spend their days outdoors, eating fish, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine.
While this lifestyle may be unhealthy on the surface, their longevity is astounding. Many live over 90.
This phenomenon has attracted researchers from all over the globe. After extensive studies, their conclusion is that Cilento folks live long due to a “balance between acceptance of and the grit to overcome adversities along with positive attitude, close family ties, religion, land, and purpose in life.
If they can do it, you too, can.
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