Activities to Boost a Senior Loved One’s Mental Health
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While we may think that seniors’ mental health concerns are a natural part of aging, they are not. Anxiety, mood disorders, and depression should be recognized and treated in seniors, just as they are in younger people. As our loved ones get older, we need to be cognizant of their mental health and do all that we can to help them receive treatment, especially because sound mental health is important to our loved ones’ well-being and our ability to care for them. If you’re looking for ways to boost a loved one’s mental health, there are several things you can do. Here are four activities to help you boost a senior loved one’s mental health so that you can get started today.
1. Keep Your Senior Loved One Physically Active
Exercise is one of the best ways to boost a senior loved one’s mental health, because it is good for his body and his mind. Daily walks with your senior will give you a chance to talk to him and see how he is doing. These walks can be completed at your senior loved one’s pace and are more about getting outside, being active, and socializing than about losing weight.
Another option is to help your senior loved one find an organized exercise class at a local YMCA, church, senior center, or gym. These locations frequently offer senior exercise sessions that are designed especially for seniors and take their physical abilities into consideration.
Yet another option is to find a dance class in your senior loved one’s area. Many seniors enjoy dancing. Plus, dance is a great exercise option for seniors who are able to participate, because a 2014 study found that one 60-minute dance class per week leads to improvements in depression symptoms.
2. Widen Your Senior Loved One’s Social Circle
Seniors who find new friends or who strengthen relationships with existing friends often are better equipped to handle depression and anxiety. Some activities that increase your loved one’s social life include book clubs, volunteer groups, night classes, and alumni associations. If your community has a senior center, help your loved one by providing transportation to it or by reviewing their activity schedule with them so they can find an activity in which they would like to participate.
Another way to enhance your senior loved one’s social circle is to check with local churches. Churches often offer hobby or activity afternoons, such as quilting groups, exercise classes, and card clubs, for seniors to enjoy. Several churches also offer volunteer opportunities, senior Bible Study groups, lunch/prayer sessions, and transportation for seniors to attend Sunday services.
Seniors also frequently make their own social groups at local bakeshops, bookstores, and coffee shops. It may be a good idea to check with proprietors of these local businesses and inquire about senior coffee groups.
No matter where your loved one socializes, finding a social activity that she loves is a surefire way to boost her mental health.
3. Get Your Senior Loved One Involved in Social Media
Seniors are discovering the Internet and the joys of joining social media. If you have the patience and knowledge to help your senior loved one get online and join social media, you can help him connect with friends and family online. If you aren’t available to teach your loved one how to get involved in social media, find a senior center that assists seniors in using technology for social purposes.
Facebook and Twitter may be the easiest social media groups in which to get seniors involved, but you also could consider helping them use Skype so they can socialize more personally with friends and family. Remember, getting your senior loved one socially activity is a great way to boost his mental health.
4. Help Your Senior Loved One Get Back Into or Take Up a Hobby
Did your senior loved one enjoy sewing or crocheting or learning about a topic of interest to her? Sometimes encouraging seniors to get back into their hobbies, or to begin a new hobby, is a great way to boost your loved one’s mental health. Begin by discussing hobbies with your loved one and spark some interest in her.
If you’re having difficulty getting your senior loved one interested in a hobby, try discussing some of the groups that are offered at local senior centers or churches. If your senior loved one resists the idea of joining a hobby group, suggest that she attend one session and see whether she likes it and then move on to another if she doesn’t. Still another option is to help your senior loved one make a little extra money while doing something they love. For example, if they love dogs they might become a dog walker or pet sitter. That way, they’ll have some extra dough and they’ll be having fun and staying active all at the same time. Leaving options open is a strategy to use with seniors who are reluctant or hesitant to try new activities.
Being active is one of the most successful ways to boost mental health, so join your loved one in these activities whenever possible. And remember, the care you give will suffer if you don’t take care of yourself, so work together to keep from falling behind. Staying healthy together is a great way to bond and show your loved one you truly care.
Lisa Gonzalez has had years of experience with volunteering in nursing homes and organizing local senior activities. Realizing that this was her passion is what got her involved with ElderCorps.org, a resource geared towards the care and well-being of the aging population.