Growing Old and Mental Health
How does growing old impact your mental health? Fisayomi Aturamu explores this topic in detail below:
Good health cuts across all spheres of life.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Mental health is therefore just as important as the physical.
We think of Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia and other such conditions when the term ‘mental health’ is used.
But mental health is more than the absence of mental disorder.
What Does “Good” Mental Health Mean?
To be in good mental health, you have a state of well-being where you’re aware of your own abilities, can cope with the usual stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and are able to make a positive contribution to your community.
How Does Growing Old Affect Mental Health?
Ageing is a normal phenomenon that most of us will experience.
However, everyone adapts to ageing differently.
Many people cope quite well, surrounding themselves with family, friends, engaging activity as they age that results in fulfilment and peace of mind.
But quite a lot of people don’t.
In addition to the physical changes that occur in the body due to the process of ageing, there are also changes to one’s mental state.
Ageing could have a significant impact on your mental health due to some of the life changes that you experience.
How Your Mental Health Changes With Age
- As you grow older, you may get less active and agile than in your youth.
- This may be destabilising as it may lead to losing your independence and relying on other people for your usual activities.
- Limitations from engaging in activities that you love could cause frustration leading to despair.
- Life events could complicate the picture, too.
- Losing a loved one, or close companion can create a sense of loneliness or abandonment.
- An illness that develops as one grows older may also lead to reliance on medicines making some people less active or other complication.
- For example, osteoarthritis may cause an individual to have reduced mobility and depend on pain medication.
Other Changes as You Grow Older
So you should realise that not only physical changes that happen with ageing, other things contribute.
Add one’s own life experiences, environment and genetics: these all contribute to developing mental health conditions like depression, dementia and anxiety.
Nevertheless, there are some factors that may contribute to good health e.g. diet, exercise, genetics, etc.
In a nutshell, physical health affects your mental health and vice versa.
How To Maintain Good Mental Health as You Grow Older?
Well, the good news is that there are ways to ensure that the transition to old age does not affect your mental health.
Here are some surprising tips for positive ageing (which can also work for individuals of all ages).
- 1. Exercise: It does not have to be weightlifting or running.
- Move around every now and then even if it means taking a 10-minute walk in your neighbourhood, gardening or playing with your grandchildren.
- A sedentary lifestyle is not beneficial to health whether you are young or old.
- Engage in activities you love regularly: This could be anything from watching films, TV shows, visiting loved ones or inviting family members over to spend time with you.
- Spending time with loved ones or doing things you love would help to keep you in good spirits.
- 2. While there could be many sad memories, try not to dwell on your past, but focus on and enjoy your present.
- Who says you are too old to try new things?
- Contrary to popular belief, the human brain does not stop changing with age.
- Therefore, you are capable of developing new habits that can help you adapt to this new phase of your life.
- So, stay positive and do not brood over things you used to do but can no longer partake of effectively.
- Discover new hobbies or look for opportunities to participate in meaningful activity that involves socialisation to curb feelings of isolation.
- For example, if you are a retired teacher who misses going to work daily and spending time with students, you may volunteer at your local church or mosques or even babysit for neighbours.
- Something else to do is spend time with other individuals of the same age group with similar interests as this would help curb any feelings of isolation or being out of place.
- Do not hesitate to get medical aids like glasses or hearing aids that might help you function better.
- 3. Go for regular check-ups. Visit your doctor regularly and always share your health concerns with your health care provider. Do not self-medicate.
- 4. Self-care. This ranges from adequate sleep to a balanced diet. Adequate hydration, while important at any age is crucial in the elderly as dehydration may cause confusion.
Using these suggestions can help with ageing positively whilst giving individuals a sense of meaning, purpose, belonging and responsibility that would ensure good mental health and overall well-being.
Remember that the choices you make have an effect on your overall well-being. Therefore, whatever your age may be, always endeavour to make healthy choices.
Do you need some help identifying what changes to make in your lifestyle to promote your mental health? Comment below or send us an enquiry.
Read more here about Dealing with Anxiety.
Learn more about this topic here:
- Promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health in later life
- Depression in Older Adults: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
- Aging Well: Wellness And Psychosocial Treatment For The Emotional And Cognitive Challenges Of Aging.
- Mental Health of Older Adults
- Older people and Mental Health
- Mental Health in Older People. Consensus paper. Luxembourg: European Communities
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
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