Jim Vogel (*) shares with us 4 things to remember to promote mental wellness in seniors. He says maintaining mental health in your golden years is an important component of overall well-being. Seniors are at risk for memory loss, depression, suicide, and mood disorders. Activities that promote an active body and mind can help prevent these ailments and improve the overall quality of life. As you approach your golden years, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will keep you on the path to wellness.
- Retirement isn’t for everyone.
It’s becoming more and more common for seniors to take on part-time jobs as a way to get out of the house, socialize, and earn some extra spending money. Working two days a week as a cashier provides a way to make friends in the form of coworkers and also keeps your brain working as you count back change and help customers with their purchases. It also guarantees that you have a reason to get out of the house regularly.
Working part-time can be hugely beneficial in fighting depression as many seniors find themselves staying home and becoming isolated, whether due to mobility challenges that prevent them from leaving the house, or simply not having a good reason to get out and get moving. On top of these mental benefits, most part time jobs require some physical activity whether it be standing, walking, or lifting. Being physically active even a few days per week ensures the body will stay healthy as well as the mind.
- Morning Walks Are a Great Start
Exercise is hugely important to mental well-being as well as physical. Exercise has been shown to have positive impacts in combating the symptoms of anxiety and depression – two common mental health issues which a disproportionate number of seniors suffer from. Rather than paying to join a gym or purchasing a home workout video, simply take a morning walk. Morning walks serve a number of purposes beyond exercise. They coax you to get out of bed every morning, they provide an opportunity to socialize with neighbors, and they guarantee you some fresh air. Starting your morning by greeting your neighbors, admiring gardens and flowers, and breathing the morning air is a great start to a positive day.
- Hobbies, new and old, never hurt.
Hobbies stimulate both body and mind and can also create opportunities for socialization. The local senior centers are a wonderful place to find (or teach) craft classes which allow you to enjoy a relaxing activity and also socialize. Attending craft classes let you meet like-minded people who enjoy the same hobbies. What’s more, most senior centers offer access to transportation services, so you don’t have to worry about driving your car or taking public transportation, particularly if mobility is a challenge for you.
Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress, even if done in the comfort of your own home. Things such as knitting, quilting, and crocheting are rising in popularity for their utility. A year of making hats, blankets, and scarves means you can save money on Christmas shopping, too, offering beautiful handmade items with a personal touch.
- Seniors get free college.
A number of schools in the United States have free programs for seniors who are returning to school whether or not they are degree-seekers. Lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp and attending college courses has even more benefits. Returning to school part-time or simply taking a class or two that interests you provides an opportunity to socialize with your classmates, plus you have a reason to get out of the house and explore your local college campus.
Furthermore, if you were unable to get the degree you always wanted in your youth, acquiring a degree can bring feelings of accomplishment and pride. Even if your local colleges don’t have a senior plan, many will allow you to sit in on classes for free. It’s never too late to cross things off your bucket list.
Becoming a senior comes with a new set of challenges. Maintaining mental health and physical fitness is a top priority which can become more difficult with age. Though most people consider retirement to be a nice, quiet part of life, it may be in your best interests to stay active. Getting a job, exercising, learning a new craft, or going back to school – all of these things enable a relaxing, enjoyable retirement that’s also healthy and active.
(*) Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.
Thank you Jim and Caroline for your insight. It takes a village to care for our elders.