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Seven Tips for Boosting Seniors’ Mental Health

    More than 6.5 million seniors throughout the United States suffer from depression, and between 3 and 14 percent meet the criteria for a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

    Clearly, mental health is a serious issue among seniors. Unfortunately, many of them do not get the help they need, often because they don’t know how to ask for it or because their family doesn’t recognize that something is wrong.

    If you have a parent or elderly loved one whom you suspect is suffering from a mental health disorder, keep reading. Listed below are some tips that will help you boost their mood and improve their quality of life.

    Know the Signs of Poor Mental Health

    Before you can help an elderly parent or loved one improve their mental health, you first need to understand the signs that they are struggling. Listed below are some of the most common signs of poor mental health in senior citizens:

    • Changes in dress or appearance
    • Neglecting personal hygiene
    • Having difficulty maintaining their home or yard
    • Frequent feelings of confusion or difficulty concentrating
    • Changes in weight or appetite
    • Feelings of guilt or helplessness
    • Memory loss
    • Sudden, inexplicable physical issues like aches, constipation, or incontinence
    • Social withdrawal
    • Sudden, inexplicable fatigue
    • Sudden increases in spending or difficulty handling finances

    Improving Seniors’ Mental Health

    If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms in your parent or loved one, it’s important to encourage them to seek professional help. In addition to working with a therapist or psychiatrist, these tips can help boost their mood and improve their outlook.

    1. Encourage Physical Activity

    Physical exercise boosts the production of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that improve mood and ward off feelings of depression.

    Seniors may think that they don’t need to exercise, but physical activity is essential for people of all ages. Good forms of exercise for seniors include walking, resistance training, dancing, and swimming.

    2. Encourage Socialization with Other Seniors

    Spending time with other seniors is a great way for the elderly to maintain their mental health and foster a sense of connection. This is especially important for seniors who have been widowed.

    Look to the local senior center for classes and activities meant to keep seniors engaged. Some senior centers even offer transportation services so that everyone can be involved, even if they’re no longer able to drive.

    If your parent or loved one is hesitant to branch out because of physical limitations, look into options for persons with limited mobility such as wheelchairs, walkers, or portable toilets to help with incontinence. These can help them feel more comfortable and included.

    3. Establish Regular Family Gatherings

    It’s also important for seniors to feel connected to their family members, especially their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Look for ways to make sure family members are dropping by regularly to visit and check up on your parent or loved one.

    Even if they can only stay for a short time, these visits may make a world of difference to a senior who is feeling depressed or anxious.

    4. Teach Them to Use Technology

    Seniors can also benefit from using social media websites like Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch. Skype and Facetime are beneficial, too, for helping them stay connected to family and friends who live far away.

    If your parent or loved one is going to be using Facebook or another social media site, be sure to talk to them about internet safety and make sure they know not to “friend” people they don’t actually know.

    5. Get Them a Pet

    Having a pet to care for can help seniors feel more socially engaged and less depressed.

    If your parent is up to the challenge of caring for a dog or cat (meaning they can feed, clean up after, and walk them on their own), buying them a pet could significantly improve their mental health. Just make sure they actually are interested in owning an animal before you pull the trigger and buy one.

    6. Encourage Them to Play Games

    Crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and Sudoku are great activities that keep the brain healthy and stimulated. Encourage your parent or loved one to try these activities on a regular basis. They may help them feel accomplished and challenged in a positive way.

    7. Promote Volunteer Work

    After they’ve retired, many seniors feel depressed or anxious. Volunteering can help fill a void and remind seniors that they can still do a lot to help others and make a difference.