4 Ways to Boost and Maintain Mental Health in Seniors
Have you ever wondered how some seniors seem to be much sharper and happier than their peers? Well, the answer is a multifaceted one. Everything from an individual’s genetics and lifestyle to their natural disposition and overall life experiences plays a role.
Although we cannot change our past or genetics, there are proven ways to not only maintain but also boost mental health in seniors. Whether you are a caregiver, or a senior yourself, here are four ways to keep that brain sharp throughout the decades.
As we grow older, social alienation is unavoidable without active intervention. The children grow up and move out, while we lose touch with friends and relatives. Some of us are even unfortunate enough to lose people along the way, which can be particularly damaging. Social isolation in old age has been proven to psychologically and physically age people faster. It can lead to depression, anxiety, lethargy, and further proclivity towards staying isolated.
Active intervention is necessary and in the case of seniors, it should ideally come from the other end. Their children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and caregivers should put in the extra effort necessary to:
- Include them in family and/or social events and activities.
- Create family and/or social events and activities around days that are special to them (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).
- Arrange for frequent visits, in case the elder still lives alone.
Cognitive decline plays a bigger role in bringing about a decline in senior mental health than anything else. When you have trouble remembering what you ate for dinner last night, it’s difficult to fondly recall happy memories. Fortunately, there are several well-proven activities that help to stimulate the brain, improve memory, and boost our cognitive abilities, irrespective of age.
These are designed to work the brain in much the same way as physical exercise works our muscles. Just like physical exercise reinforces and strengthens muscles, brain-stimulating activities rejuvenate the neurons and help in building new interneural connections. For example, unscrambling words in scrabble is one of the most effective ways to exercise your mind. It simultaneously stimulates memory and speech (vocabulary), as well as the brain’s ability to anagram.
Anagramming is the complex cognitive process that we use to sort through jumbled words and rearrange available letters into meaningful words. Some of the other activities and games well known for being effective at boosting cognition among seniors are:
- Crossword puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Math problems
- Video games in the racing and 3D platformer genres
- Reading books
- Learning a new language
Guided Physical Exercise
There is immense potential in physical exercise routines that are created especially for seniors and customized further for the particular individual. Recent studies show that resistance training is more effective and less dangerous for seniors looking to get the most out of their workouts. The exercise routine must be created after consultation with a certified fitness trainer for the elderly, and the senior’s physician. In case the senior has any prohibitive medical conditions, their routine must be created in consideration of those conditions.
The MIND Diet
The need for a proper, well-supplemented diet is a universal requirement for active seniors. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet, aka MIND diet, comes highly recommended because there is proof to suggest the diet can boost cognition and prevent/delay the onset of neurodegeneration (dementia, Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, etc.) in seniors.
Vegetables, beans, leafy greens, fruits, berries, nuts, poultry, fish, olive oil, and wine should be a part of a senior’s MIND diet every day. If it feels like too much, you only need to control the portions and make sure it’s within the intended recipient’s capacity.