According to The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, an estimated 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression, which is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. Depression can result in personal distress and suffering, as well as impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning.
Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.
If you read our last blog article, The Secret to Health & Longevity That’s Too Important to Miss , you are familiar with the concept of “The Village Effect.” This metaphor for how human connection significantly impacts our minds and bodies points to the powerful link between socialization and lifespan. It’s an incredible concept supported by studies in social neuroscience, and it makes the case for just how important human connection is in the life of a senior.
Stress doesn’t discriminate based on generation, and no matter what’s going on in a senior’s life, there’s potential for them to suffer from the physical and emotional effects of stress. Circumstances like illness, loss of a loved one, loss of independence, a strained relationship, a move or other difficult changes to their daily life could be major contributors to stress. Learning how to understand and identify that stress is critical to working through it or supporting the senior in your life as they experience it.
There are simply some factors impacting Alzheimer’s and its severity that are completely out of our control, including those like age and genetics. There are others, however, over which we have a great deal of influence, and one of the most prominent is nutrition. Advances in science and research have suggested that a person’s diet can have a significant impact on their ability to think and remember as they age.
With holiday spirits and festivities in full force, there’s a great deal of focus on the sweets and treats that make the season bright. It can be tempting to overindulge in the many tasty desserts that typically grace our tables this time of year. Although it’s often a challenge to keep one’s health and nutrition in mind while enjoying the tasty pleasures of the holidays, it’s especially important for seniors to prioritize healthy habits and manage appropriate levels of sugar, salt and fat.
While the pandemic wages on and we edge closer to one full year of the often overwhelming threat of COVID-19, some things remain steady as ever—like the clockwork transition from one season to the next. As the onset of blustery, cold weather kicks into high gear, many seniors and their loved ones are challenged to maintain a strong focus on safety and social distancing, all without succumbing to the potentially harmful effects of social isolation, cabin fever and boredom.
Approximately one third of seniors are lonely, according to the most recent National Poll on Healthy Aging. Notably, this poll was conducted before the onset of a global pandemic that spurred dramatic protocol for social distancing and self-isolation. Spread-prevention measures have brought on an even more severe state of loneliness for people of all ages, but especially for older adults, who are already at high risk of experiencing these types of feelings.
Some of the first images that come to mind when thinking about the holidays are those so-called sugar plums dancing in our heads. From stuffed turkeys and sweet potato pies to rich side dishes and sweet treats, there’s a seemingly endless array of festive delights to tempt the taste buds. While it’s fine to indulge in seasonal savories from time to time, it’s also important for seniors to keep their health and nutrition in check.
It’s completely natural for seniors to experience some changes in their sense of taste. In fact, many have lost about two thirds of their overall taste buds by age 70, impacting their sensitivity to tastes like sweet and salty. Certain medications and medical conditions can also diminish a senior’s taste, causing some foods to seem bland. That’s why it’s common for seniors to overcompensate with higher intakes of sugar and salt.
Autumn is arriving, and with it comes the rush of thoughts about upcoming holidays, changing temperatures and what’s in store for winter this year. There’s no doubt some of this unknown will be faced with anxiety about how to plan for the next several months. In particular, many seniors and their loved ones worry about how to handle any necessary quarantine measures.
Nutritional needs are finicky things. As we age, our bodies change, our appetites transform and our health requirements evolve. In response to these adjustments, some seniors face unintentional weight loss or experience other dietary realities that put their overall health at risk. Therefore, seniors must be extra vigilant about what and how often they eat.
The aging process is an interesting one for sure. And like any other phase of life, one’s golden years are accompanied by unique ups and downs, joys and sorrows, moments of anxiety and moments of peace. There are changes to mind, body and spirit. There are new things to learn and new opportunities to embrace. And while there’s no stopping the aging process, there’s much that can be done to live your senior years with the utmost satisfaction and enjoyment.
In most cases, this journey is best supported by a healthy approach to diet and nutrition.
As each calendar day ticks by, we’re reminded again and again how deeply the coronavirus has impacted every single one of us. For months, we’ve scrambled to discover new ways of coping, new ways of living and working, new ways of defining “normal” in so many aspects of our lives.
Unsurprisingly, these challenges have triggered a range of emotions, from fear and anxiety to sadness, loneliness and stress. If you (or a senior in your life) are struggling with these types of feelings, it’s important to prioritize your mental health and take advantage of opportunities to enhance your personal well-being.
Many adults who are navigating the nuances of their golden years can experience a sense of loss in terms of engagement with activities that fill their days with purpose. What they may not be considering is that this stage in a person’s life is often the ideal time to take up a new hobby. From physical benefits to mental and emotional health advantages, engaging in an enjoyable hobby can offer seniors immense meaning and value.
As you acknowledge this reality and begin to think about what hobbies pique your interest as well as meet your individual needs, you might defer to senior staples like gardening, knitting and painting. And while these are certainly excellent choices if they suit your particular fancy, there are also some lesser-known options you may never have considered before.
When you’re caring for an aging loved one, it’s easy to get caught up in the self-defeating inner dialogue that’s tied to feelings of guilt.
Caregivers are called upon to do so much, continually giving of themselves in any number of ways. Many are sandwiched between the needs of their elderly, dependent parents and the responsibilities of tending to their children who haven’t yet left the nest. In the midst of balancing this complex family life with a potential career, there’s often very little time and energy devoted to caring for themselves.
But when the caregiver neglects their own needs, they risk some highly detrimental outcomes, not the least of which is physical, mental and emotional burnout. According to the most recent Caregiving in the U.S. study, conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the AARP Public Policy Institute:
As seniors look forward to summertime after the long, dreary months of winter’s chill, the idea of having to continue social distancing may feel incredibly disappointing. In the midst of a global pandemic, safety remains a primary concern for older adults who face increased risk in contracting the virus. But the cancellation of community gatherings and in-person events doesn’t have to be devastating.
There is still a host of fun and energizing summertime activities for seniors to enjoy even as they remain safely socially distant. It’s more important than ever for older adults to stay physically and mentally healthy. The change of season is a perfect time to capitalize on the socially distant activities—both indoors and out—that put a swing back in your step, or that of an aging loved one.
If you’ve been keeping up with our latest series on social isolation, you understand that the senior population faces increased risk to their physical, mental and, emotional well-being during our current global health crisis. Part 1 of this series introduced some of the triggers that can cause an unhealthy level of loneliness for you or the senior in your life, while Part 2 offered specific ideas for prevention and mitigation. In this final installment, we’re delving into the critical role technology plays in fighting the isolation felt by so many seniors throughout this time of social distancing.
It goes without saying that, on the whole, technology is more readily adopted and easily navigated by younger generations—those who were born into the computer age and grew up with smartphones at their fingertips. But it’s also true that, now more than ever, technology has emerged as essential to people spanning every age group, in one way or another. Thanks to ongoing advancements in mobile technology and user-friendly interfaces, seniors are quickly becoming a much larger demographic of users.
In this unprecedented time of concern that stems from a global health crisis, the need (and, in many cases, the mandate) to self-isolate and practice strict social distancing has taken a major toll on mental health for people in every category of age, gender, social status and geography.
We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic in one way or another, and for many, the most prominent effect has been an overwhelming feeling of loneliness.
In our last post, Social Isolation Series, Part 1: Identifying Triggers for Loneliness in Seniors, we introduced the need to address some of the most pressing challenges facing seniors during the current global health crisis and widespread isolation measures. With acute loneliness endangering both the mental and physical health of older adults, it’s important to focus on getting the information you and your loved ones need to navigate this difficulty effectively.