Major changes that often happen later in life can increase the chances that an older person will be affected by depression or mental health issues. To help older adults maintain their health and well-being, FirstLight Home Care shares three ways to boost their mental health.
Helping an older loved one stay mentally happy and healthy can sometimes be a challenge.
Depression and mood disorders are often associated with aging, but this doesn’t mean an older loved one is bound to develop mental health issues – especially if they engage in activities that help keep their spirits high and their mind strong.
Usually, having something to look forward to gives an older person a reason to get up and/or get out of the house.
It could be lunch with a child or family member, catching up with friends, attending a wedding, or entertaining an out-of-town visitor.
To avoid upsetting or putting your older adult on the defensive, don’t present these activities as mental health exercises, simply offer them as fun ways to connect with family, friends, and nature.
Here are three great ways to boost an older loved one’s mental health.
1. Taking a nature break
According to the American Psychological Association, research is helping us understand how being in nature can improve mental health and sharpen cognition.
Many studies show that being in nature, or even looking at images of nature, reduces stress and helps memory and mood.
Ways to enjoy nature with an older loved one can include short walks at a local park, a visit to a local arboretum or botanical garden, or even just sitting on a bench or chair outside on a nice day.
While being outdoors is the simplest way to enjoy nature, it’s not always possible due to overly hot or cold temperatures or if someone has very limited mobility.
In these cases, explore other ways to enjoy nature from inside their home.
2. Playing word games or working on simple puzzles
If your senior loved one is able to enjoy playing games like Scrabble, work on crossword puzzles, or do jigsaw puzzles, these are great ways to have fun and boost mental health at the same time.
To make sure they’ll be enjoyable and satisfying, choose games that match your older adult’s abilities.
For example, you could have an ongoing jigsaw puzzle with a loved one that you both work on during visits so they can enjoy your company and get a little mental workout as well.
Bingo is another popular game that you or your family can play with your older adult. It’s fun and can be played with two people or a larger group.
3. Learning a new skill or revisiting an old talent
Many older adults enjoyed art and hobbies when they were younger and may enjoy starting up a new hobby that incorporates their former skills.
Art classes are a great way to bring out the artistic side of your loved one.
Painting, sketching, or sculpting all offer an artistic outlet and also improve hand-eye coordination, in addition to boosting mental health.
Music is another great way to lift spirits. Studies show that it can also improve mood and increase happiness among older adults.
Maybe your older adult used to sing for pleasure or play an instrument. They might enjoy picking up those hobbies again or they might like going to a concert or watching musicals on TV.
Singing along at a musical concert is another way to bring back happy memories. Taking your loved one to musical events (or watching one together online or on TV) is another way to offer a mental health boost and enjoy each other’s company, too.
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Guest contributor: Carol Nelson, RN, BSN, MBA, is Healthcare Solutions Manager for FirstLight Home Care. With more than 35 years of experience in Medicare and private duty home care services, hospice and palliative care, and assisted living management, Carol has a heart for service and a dedication to the health and well-being of older adults.
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