Mental Health Tips for Healthy Aging

Portrait of senior man in front of suburban home

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According to the World Health Organization, the number of people aged 60 and over is expected to double by 2050. Research has traditionally focused on reducing physical risk factors to ward off chronic disease in those joining the ranks of our aging population.

This article will focus primarily on psycho-social activities you can increase doing which have been proven to aid in healthy aging. It will also incorporate mental health tips that will better your chances of living a good life in your advanced years.

It Begins With Physical Health

Although you will learn mental health tips for successful aging, we have to start with your daily activities which involves taking good care of your body. To assist you in living your best life in your senior years, adopt these habits for a healthy lifestyle:

The New Focus on Psychology and Resilience

To promote healthy aging and resiliency, researchers have found we need to expand our understanding of psychological and social well-being. Rather than do studies exclusively about cutting risk factors for chronic disease (evidence suggests that disability is increasing and life expectancy levels are decreasing), we have to include other factors.

These other factors include resilience, psychosocial well-being and social well-being. By including these factors, scientists believe they can find new ways to enhance quality of life and the prolonged health of seniors.

Maintain Social Connections

An essential way to age in a healthy manner is to continue to interact with family and friends. Because older adults might suffer from hearing or vision loss, or not be able to drive at night, it’s important they don’t feel socially isolated.

Social isolation and loneliness can have dire consequences. The National Institute on Aging says social isolation and loneliness have been linked to higher risks for heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Being socially active is important for older adults. Building social networks can boost self-esteem and increase physical activity.

Research about older adults cultivating new social ties found that developing new social contacts was associated with improved (self-reported) physical and psychological well-being.

An easy way to keep those connections strong is to call your family members once a week and either text or email a friend or new social contact every day or two. Just be sure to strengthen and nurture your relationships.

Learn New Things for Healthy Cognitive Function

In a study of adults 60 and older, scientists aimed to find out if sustained engagement in learning cognitively demanding novel skills over a period of time would improve cognitive function. Participants learned to quilt, do digital photography, or engaged in both activities for an average of 16.51 hours a week for 3 months.

The findings show clear evidence that sustained engagement in these challenging and new activities did enhance participants’ memory function. But limited benefits were shown for sustained engagement in social activities.

So, engaging your mind in educational activities is a big positive for your brain. That could mean learning a new craft, instrument or skill. Learning in this way might be key to maintaining healthy cognitive function as you age.

Keep Stress At Bay

We all get stressed at times in our life. The important thing is to find ways to deal with it better to support healthy aging because stress has many negative consequences. Here are typical, but not good ways to deal with stress.

Unhealthy reactions to stress might include these behaviors:

Rather than let stress build up and adversely affect you, incorporate these actions in your everyday life to prevent stress:

Treat Feelings of Depression

Common causes for depression in older adults are the the death of a spouse, family member, friend or pet. Dealing with health issues, changes in the body and the natural process of aging might also cause sadness and depression.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is a treatable medical condition, “not a normal part of aging.” Seek out a mental health counselor if you think you’re depressed. They will be there to help you.

Unfortunately, seniors might feel they’re just getting old. Or they might not even realize they’re depressed. If you feel emptiness, numbness, lose sleep or your appetite, these could also be symptoms of depression.

If seniors recognize they’re depressed, they could very well refuse treatment. A recent survey showed that older adults wouldn’t seek help for their depression.

To prevent yourself from falling into a state of depression, fortify yourself with these actions alongside traditional forms of treatment such as therapy:

  • Find meaning in your life
  • Volunteer for a cause you believe in (very beneficial for seniors)
  • Enjoy your hobbies, collections and interests
  • Tell someone you love them
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable with those close to you
  • When you start to feel down, reach out to someone at that moment
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Give yourself self-care
  • Watch a funny movie to distract yourself
  • Use laughter as a coping mechanism

Have Fun

Do all those leisure activities that you had no time to do while you were working.  Go to a jazz concert or a play. Or dance to a garage band. The arts have been shown to promote well-being.

You should take that creative writing class you always wanted to take. Or sign up for the painting class at the local art center. Creativity positively impacts your health. Art therapy has been shown to slow down cognitive deterioration related to dementia.

Older adults should not hesitate to tap into their resilience. By using your strengths and past history, you can better cope with your challenges and problem-solve.

Incorporating these mental health tips can help you age in a healthy manner. Seniors can now look forward to a better quality of life by taking care of their physical health and safeguarding their mental health.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. National Institute on Aging. April 2019.

  3. Cornwell B, Laumann EO. The health benefits of network growth: new evidence from a national survey of older adultsSoc Sci Med. 2015;125:94-106. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.011

  4. Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, Drew L, et al. The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse ProjectPsychol Sci. 2014;25(1):103-112. doi:10.1177/0956797613499592

  5. Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  6. Deshmukh SR, Holmes J, Cardno A. Art therapy for people with dementiaCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;9(9):CD011073. Published 2018 Sep 13. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011073.pub2

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.