How Seniors Can Improve Their Mental Health

September 27, 2022

How Seniors Can Improve Their Mental Health

Every stage of life challenges your mental health in different ways, and retirement is no different. Retirement can be an exciting time to start new hobbies, spend more time with friends and family, travel and enjoy life, but it can also be the time of different challenges, loss and health issues. It’s important to understand the mind body connection and know how to protect and support your mental health as you age.  

 Mental Health and Aging

 It’s estimated that 20% of older adults age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern according to the AmericanAssociation of Geriatric Psychiatry. Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well being. When it’s in balance, you can successfully navigate life’s stresses and difficult times, adapt to changes, live healthfully and make good choices, and feel confident about your support system and social connections.

People who struggle with emotional imbalance often experience both emotional and physical symptoms. Among seniors, the most common mental health condition is depression according to the World Health Organization. Given this information, it’s surprising that depression in seniors is often unrecognized and therefore untreated. The good news is that depression is not a normal part of aging, and in most cases it’s a treatable condition. Knowing the signs and symptoms of depression and actively supporting your mental health is important.

Signs of Depression inSeniors

Depression is more than just occasional sadness. When a person experiences persistent sadness for longer than 2 weeks, withdraws from previously enjoyed activities, has difficulty sleeping, and complains of physical discomforts, he or she may be at risk for depression. Physical pain is often how depression manifests in older adults, and frequently comes through as chronic neck, back and shoulder pain.

Overtime, everyday stresses cause muscles to tense and spasm, which results in chronic pain. Stress triggers for seniors may be rising medical costs or physical conditions that limit movement. The death of a loved one or a new medical diagnosis can also be overwhelming. Others may become depressed for no clear reason. Any of these challenges can be stressful, but together they might be crushing for an older person who feels isolated and lack a strong support network. It’s important to know that there are positive ways to improve mental health during difficult times.

Ways to Support and Improve Senior Mental Health

  • Nourish your body. It is well known that poor nutrition is linked to depression, so your first step is to eat better. Include foods rich in omega-3 like salmon, tuna and sardines, and add more vitamins and minerals to your meals by choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables. Limit the sugary foods and processed foods — and avoid alcohol because it’s a depressant.
  • Exercise for endorphins. Walk, swim, bowl, or do chair yoga to clear your head and release endorphins. Find an activity that you enjoy to release these uplifting endorphins because they’re your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters. Take advantage of this natural stress relief for your body and prioritize movement and exercise.
  • Be aware of the mind body connection. Mindful exercises like yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can improve coordination, balance, and strength while also improving mental acuity. Ongoing research has also suggested that guided mediation, walking meditation and visualization can support your brain’s healthier stress response.
  • Challenge yourself with brain games. Exercising the mind is fun with jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles and logic puzzles. Senior sudoku provides out-of-the-box thinkers with problem solving practice while trivia games stimulate the mind with a few laughs. Chess, online gaming, and even Bingo can target different parts of your brain and increase your sense of wellbeing.
  • Acknowledge how you feel. Monitor your emotions and everyday patterns. Not sleeping, or sleeping too much? Are you eating too much, or too little? Feeling angry or unmotivated? You deserve an evaluation, so open up and talk about it with your healthcare provider. There are medical causes for depression, like sleep apnea, side effects of medication, or a chemical imbalance — and these can all be treated. You can feel good again.


 Every age and stage challenges you in different ways, so it’s important to prioritize your mental health wellbeing. Knowing how to protect and support your mental health in good times and bad will result in a healthier, happier you.

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