People these days know and understand that taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In fact, mental and emotional health and wellness have been scientifically linked to helping you maintain physical health as well. So it makes sense that, to age gracefully and well, you need to be paying attention to your whole body’s health – and that includes your mental health.
“When we talk about mental health and wellness in seniors, most of us automatically think about cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s,” says Jake Quigley, Executive Director of Waterstone at the Circle. It makes sense, he says, because as we age, the risk of developing a neurocognitive issue increases. “But there are many other aspects to mental health that we may not automatically think of or consider as we put together a plan for healthy aging,” he says. “A comprehensive health and wellness plan that includes care for your mental and emotional state is essential to maintaining an active, independent retirement lifestyle.”
The Most Common Mental Health Issues Affecting Seniors
We all get blue now and then, or feel anxious about one problem or another. However, when you’re experiencing emotions like these on a frequent basis, you may be experiencing a mental health issue. Approximately 15 percent of seniors age 60 and older experience some form of mental health issue, whether chronic or temporary.
“The Baby Boomers grew up in a time when mental health issues weren’t quite as taboo as they were for previous generations, but many older seniors still may balk at the idea of going to see a ‘shrink’ or get help for something that’s ‘all in their mind,’ ” says Jake. “It’s important to remember that mental issues are just as real as physical issues like breaking an arm or having a chronic heart issue. Many of the mental health issues seniors face can be managed or treated successfully with professional medical help.”
Some of the most common issues seniors face (not counting dementia and neurocognitive disorders) are:
- Depression. Seniors have a higher risk of depression than younger individuals, which makes this an incredibly important issue. Depression can manifest as constant sadness, but also as irritability, anxiousness, guilt and anger, hopelessness and emptiness. Seniors with depression lose enjoyment from favorite activities, feel apathetic about life and often experience suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety disorders. It’s normal to feel nervous or worried about things. However, anxiety disorders are when you are in a constant state of fear and worry, which causes you to withdraw from normal activities. People with anxiety disorders can become more and more anxious over time, creating a vicious cycle. Some of the most common forms of anxiety disorders are panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder.
- Delirium. This is a temporary condition that’s often caused by a completely separate medical issue. People with delirium experience impaired judgment, confusion, an inability to focus and an increase or decrease in body movements.
- Late-onset psychosis. Psychosis-like schizophrenia has commonly been thought to manifest in young adulthood, but it’s been found that these forms of mental issues can develop at any point in life.
- Addiction. Substance abuse or behavior addictions are very common among seniors, especially alcohol addiction or opioid addiction. This can frequently be overlooked in seniors, particularly because additions in older people often mirror those of other issues.
The Secret to Maintaining Mental Health and Wellness
The secret is ... well ... not really that secretive, to be honest. Maintaining your mental well-being can be boiled down to one thing: take care of yourself. Just like eating right, getting exercise and getting enough sleep (all of which can help your mental health, by the way), taking steps to care for your mind should be a part of everyone’s health routine. Here are some tips to help you achieve, maintain and sustain a healthy mental well-being:
- Remember that it’s never too late to make a positive change. So you haven’t been good towards your mental health in the past? There’s no time like the present to take a step in the right direction. Start small, one step at a time, and you’ll discover how quickly little things can add up to big differences.
- Eat right. You’ve probably read this in every article about healthy aging you’ve come across. That’s because it’s one of the best and most effective ways to improve your overall health. Focus on vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats and low-fat dairy. Limit your intake of salt, sugar, refined foods and alcohol.
- Get enough exercise. Even if you just start off with an evening walk around the block. The more exercise you can get, the better you’ll feel and the healthier you’ll be.
- Get a good night’s sleep. What’s more refreshing than waking up from a restful night’s sleep? As we age, our sleeping patterns can change, so it’s even more important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. If you're having difficulty getting or staying asleep, talk to your doctor to see if it might be a medical issue.
- Stay curious. Exercise your mind. Do puzzles or brain teasers. Learn something new. Anything that gets the gears in your brain turning and stimulating your mind and imagination will sharpen your mental acuity and keep your brain healthy.
- Visit the doctor regularly. Don’t try and tough it out when you have ailments or illness. See your physician in order to keep something that seemed small from becoming serious.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. Being socially active and forming strong relationships is one of the best ways to keep your mental health in good shape. Surround yourself with people you care about – and who care about you – and you will reap the benefits.
- Stay involved. Volunteering with an organization or joining a club can help connect you to your community and others who share similar interests. This can give us purpose, boost our self-esteem and enable us to reduce stress.
- Seek help when needed. If you’re feeling depressed, stressed or having a case of “the blues” that lingers on and on, don’t try to ignore it. Seek out support from community groups, programs or even medical professionals who understand what you’re going through and can point you towards resources.
“Healthy aging starts with a healthy brain, so it’s essential to be proactive when it comes to your mental wellness and health,” says Jake. “By being open about these issues and not being afraid to discuss it, we are taking strides to help seniors and people of all ages do what’s needed in order to have the highest quality of life possible.”
If you’d like to learn more about maintaining your mental health, or if you’re wondering how a luxury retirement community like Waterstone at the Circle can help you live a vibrant, active and fulfilled life, contact us today at 617.431.1880.
Luxury Senior Living in Boston
Waterstone at the Circle, located in Boston’s historic Cleveland Circle neighborhood, is more than just independent living in Boston … it’s a sophisticated urban setting for today’s active seniors. Enjoy best-in-class service and a vibrant lifestyle with arts and cultural, and historical attractions right outside your front door. From high-end amenities to gourmet dining and more, experience the best of city and suburban life at our upscale senior living community located at Beacon Street and Chestnut Hill Avenue.
Elegant Independent Living Apartments
Each of our 92 Independent Living apartments is the height of luxury and modernity, with sophisticated design, upscale features and stunning views of the city. Create the urban senior living experience you want with one- or two-bedroom apartments, a variety of floor plans and monthly rentals.
Senior Living Supportive Services
As an over-62 community, residents may require support from time to time. That’s why we’ve developed an on-site coordinated care program, in cooperation with our premier community partners, that allows our Independent Living residents to receive the assistance they need.
The best part? Residents don’t have to leave our senior living community – or even their apartment – to receive high-quality support. They can receive the services they need, when they need it, in the comfort of their own homes or in our on-site therapy gym.
Waterstone at the Circle is the opposite of retiring. . . it’s a place to enhance your active, on-the-go lifestyle. Call 617.431.1880 for more information or to schedule a visit to our vibrant Boston Independent Living community and discover The Circle lifestyle today!