From a sincere need to increase awareness of mental health worldwide, World Mental Health Day – commemorated annually on Oct. 10 – was started as an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health to promote mental health for all demographics across a variety of countries.
With the primary goal of advocating general mental health, this initiative historically has taken place mostly via telecast, during which experts from different countries provided guided insights and invaluable advice that provided advice and facts about the state of the mental state of the world.
Unfortunately, many seniors experience a bleak sense of the future – especially if they’re affected by physical challenges – and this influences mental health and resilience. Studies confirm that around 25 to 40% of seniors in various countries, including the United States, are lonely and experience depressive emotions. And the social isolation forced by COVID-19 lockdown only aggravated the situation. Because one of the main factors in mental health recovery in seniors is social interaction, we encourage you to celebrate your seniors with a visit—not only on Mental Health Day but throughout the year. Each of us can make a difference to the mental health of our elders by giving our time and attention.
Tips to improve mental well-being in older adults
It’s vital we recognize the extent to which certain abilities, including mental health, can be improved by performing fairly easy everyday activities. Social interaction is one of the main ingredients. The stimulation from conversation, exchanging stories, playing board games, building puzzles, doing crosswords, and even reading to them can form a bond of closeness that eliminates the burden of isolation.
Here are some simple tips on how to improve the mental state of any senior:
- Activity and social interaction: The CDC estimates 20% of adults 55 and older struggle with some kind of “mental health concern.” To help combat this, encourage them to participate in activities and join local clubs that suit their physical and mental capacity. The company and activity received during these exercises not only improves the body but also improves mental health.
- Regular connection with others: Spend time with your elders and encourage them to spend time with each other. Often, those who are not in age-care facilities live alone because they refuse to let go of their independence; yet, they may be restricted by physical constraints which makes social occasions difficult to attend. Pay attention and take them to events that can stimulate and invigorate them.
- Sleep and diet: Proper sleep and good nutrition are vital. While older people often need less sleep than most, it’s vital the sleep they do get is of high quality and that enough REM sleep is achieved to invigorate and re-energize the brain.
- Physical exercise: This may be limited in old age (depending on the physical condition), but there is always something to do to boost the heart rate and blood flow a bit. Don’t forget to encourage them to also build muscle tone: Lifting small weights, taking short walks, doing a few leg lifts while watching television could all benefit the body and boost pheromones which produce a feel-good effect. Just be sure any exercise is suited to the physical condition of the person.
- Control alcohol and medication: Ensure medication is only taken as prescribed. Alcohol is a recognized depressant and may result in depression if overused. Limit intake and encourage hydration with water or herbal tea.
- Resolve depression: When signs of depression or hopelessness set in, seek the assistance of a qualified mental health professional.
- Aggression: Aggression is often a sign of depression, dementia, confusion or other mental health issues. When a senior becomes overly aggressive, refuses to take medication, or constantly disagrees with a caregiver, it may be a sign of declining mental health. Ensure that a mental health professional is employed in these circumstances to work out a medical or counselling solution.
Telehealth therapy: Closing the digital divide
Telehealth therapy is a relatively new concept, and consists of health care services that are provided through real-time, face-to-face sessions and interaction between patients and caregivers via computer, smartphone or tablet.
More and more seniors are tapping into technology to remain in contact with each other, family members and caregivers. Telehealth therapy is a viable contribution to overall well-being, especially for seniors. The value of this initiative became apparent during the COVID-19 lockdown when people became isolated and unable to meet with professionals face-to-face. Many tele-therapies have since been born with remarkable success, and telehealth therapy has become an invaluable resource to carers and seniors alike. Many sites provide virtual advice and counselling at home for free or at minimal cost, and its value simply cannot be underestimated. Not only does telehealth provide vital therapy and company, but technology also promotes listening to podcasts or watching videos on a tablet, which are entertaining and stimulating.
How to celebrate World Mental Health Day
The past year has not always been easy, and it’s often more difficult if you have a senior to take care of. Compassion and care are most important. Apply both to yourself as much as you do to the seniors you care about.
Celebrate Mental Health Day by looking after yourself and those you care for. Spend some time with them—then spend some time with yourself to check in with your own mental health!