Healthy Aging and Mental Health in Older Adults

When we discuss Healthy Aging, topics addressed often have to do with diet, exercise and keeping active. Of course, all of these are important aspects to aging in good health.

One lesson the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, regardless of age, is the importance of mental health.

Loneliness impacts your health negatively and can make seniors more likely to have dementia or depression. We all need to better understand mental health. Minimizing anxiety and maintaining social connections among friends and the community both are important to older adults.

Studies have shown that as many as one in five seniors experience mental health concerns that are not a normal part of aging. The most common of these are anxiety or mood disorders, including depression.

Remain active at any age

As we get older, it is even more important to remain active. Take a daily walk outside or at the local mall. Jog or swim if you’re physically able. Socialize with others. Establish and maintain connections on social media.

All of these may have a positive effect on a senior’s mental well-being.

Older adults need to take mental health seriously

Even if an older adult never had to manage a chronic mental illness or mental health problems during his or her younger years, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore the signs later in life.

Mental health may be impacted adversely by conditions such as a stroke, cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes. Sometimes, medications may produce side effects. Older adults might encounter any of these challenges.

Suicide risk

Older adults make up 12% of the United States population but account for 18% of all suicide deaths, according to research published by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. People age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the country, and those age 75 to 84 have the second-highest rate.

Older adults should consult a healthcare professional when encountering:

• Periods of sadness lasting two weeks or longer.
• Consistent worries about issues such as money, family and health.
• Ongoing trouble sleeping or concentrating.
• Frequent memory loss or feelings of confusion.
• Tendency to have more than one alcoholic drink a day or taking more medication than prescribed.

Positive outlook

There is some good news. A study found that 80% of older adults recovered from depression after receiving treatment that included both psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication.

As mentioned earlier, older adults taking steps such as remaining active, following a nutritious diet, exercising and staying connected to other seniors as well as the younger generation can stay healthy and enjoy their golden years.