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Staying Mentally Healthy: A Guide for Older Adults

PD_Seniors_099Many people think about their health more as they get older. You may notice new aches and pains. Maybe you have a health problem that you worry about. You may not think about your mental health as much. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body as we age. Good mental health helps us handle problems better. It can help us bounce back when bad things happen. It helps us enjoy our lives. The good news is that there are things you can do to stay mentally healthy as you age.

How to Better Your Mental Health

Take Care of Your Body

Your mind and body are linked. For example, if you have heart disease or have had heart surgery, you are at higher risk of depression. Depression is also linked with many other health problems. This is not a normal part of getting older. Sleep, diet, and exercise are key parts of keeping both your body and mind healthy.

Sleep

Most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you have any sleep problems like trouble falling asleep, these things can help:

  • Sleep in a cool, dark room
  • Go to bed at the same time every night

If you still have problems, talk to your doctor.

Exercise

Exercise is also good for the mind. Going for a walk outside or doing yoga are good choices but any movement can help. See your doctor first if you have not been active for a while. Start slowly. A little exercise is better than none.

Eating Well

Your body needs healthy meals to work well. A healthy diet has a mix of these foods:

You may need a special diet if you have chronic health problem like high blood pressure. Talk to your care team if you need help with your diet. They may suggest a registered dietitian to help you plan your meals.

Take Care of Your Mind

Your mind needs exercise too. Learning something new can keep your mind sharp. Have fun! Now is a good time to try that thing you have always wanted to learn.

Spend Time with Friends and Family

Humans need other people. This does not change with age. Make time for your people close to you. Even simple things like taking a walk or getting a coffee with them can help you feel closer. The care and support you share can help keep your mind healthy.

If your loved ones do not live near you, try to meet new people. Visit your local senior center. Join a fitness group. Volunteer, or even work part-time at a job that you like.

It is also okay to say no if people in your life need too much from you. It is normal to want time alone.

Getting Help

If you ever feel worried about your mental health, there is help. Talk with your care team. They might refer you to a therapist. Some online groups can help you find a therapist near you.

Make sure that you take care of any health problems you have. You may take a lot of medicine. If any of your medicine makes you feel bad, tell your care team right away. You may need a new dose or a new medicine.

Depression, anxiety, dementia, and alcohol and drug abuse are common in older adults. Learn the signs and risk factors. This will help you get help early and get better faster. Staying mentally healthy will help you get the most out of life as you get older.

RESOURCES:

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation
http://www.gmhfonline.org

Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association
http://www.cmha.ca

Mental Health Canada
http://mentalhealthcanada.com

REFERENCES:

10 tips for improving the mental health of older adults. All About Seniors website. Available at: http://www.allaboutseniors.org/blog/behavioral-health-articles/10-tips-for-improving-the-mental-health-of-older-adults. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Improving emotional health. Help Guide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/building-better-mental-health.htm. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Common mental health problems. Mental Health and Aging website. Available at: http://www.mhaging.org/guide/problems.html. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115449/Dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention. Accessed September 21, 2020.

How much sleep do we really need? National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need. Accessed September 21, 2020.

How to sleep well as you age. Help Guide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-well-as-you-age.htm. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Mental health and mental illness. Mental Health and Aging website. Available at: http://www.mhaging.org/guide/mhmi.html. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Physical activity for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113884/Physical-activity-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Wulsin LR, Singal BM. Do depressive symptoms increase the risk for the onset of coronary disease? A systematic quantitative review. Psychosom Med. 2003;65(2):201-210.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 9/21/2020