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MENTAL HEALTH IN OLDER AGE

Added 238 days ago. 01 June 2021

Looking after your mental health in older age is important, so we’ve got some tips to explore how your mental health can be affected by ageing and what you can do to improve your wellbeing.

 
Recognising signs of older people’s mental health issues is important to make sure you can look after your own or your loved ones’ wellbeing. Below we have a selection of tips and ideas of how you can help look after your mental wellbeing, as well as provide information on where to seek mental health support if needed.

The relationship between ageing and mental health

As we age and experience changes to our lifestyle and physical health, it can often impact how we feel. Many people suffer with their mental health as they get older, with 1 in 4 older people experiencing symptoms of depression, but not all of these seeking treatment for it.
 
Taking care of our mental health is important and is key to enjoying a happy and healthy life.

How can I recognise symptoms and feelings? 

Being able to understand your own mental wellbeing is important as significant changes in your mood or how you feel could be an early sign of depression or anxiety. 
 
Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
  • Feeling anxious or worried - It is perfectly natural to feel worried from time to time, especially during certain periods in life when a lot of change is happening or there is a lot of uncertainty. However, if you are feeling worried more often and this is having an impact on your sleep or appetite, it could be a sign of anxiety. 
  • Experiencing low moods - Everyone feels sad from time to time but be mindful if you are feeling low for a long period of time or for no clear reason as this it could be a sign that something isn’t quite right.
  • Loss of interest - Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed such as hobbies or seeing friends and family without a known cause could be an early sign of changes to your mental health.  
If you experience any of these feelings it is important that you seek some support from a professional, utilising mental health services for older people. Age UK is a great starting place, providing support specifically aimed at older people. Other really useful sources of information can be found on MIND, or if you have identified feelings of depression or anxiety, Depression UK and Anxiety UK offer lots of practical support and guidance.

What can trigger changes to mental health?

There are so many factors that can cause a change in how we feel. 
 
Here are just a few reasons that you may experience a chance in your mental health in older age:
  • A recent bereavement - Losing someone close to you is a difficult time and will have a significant impact on how you feel. There are many organisations that can help with the grieving process, for example you could try contacting Cruse Bereavement Support, a charity that offers bereavement support.
  • Coping with changes in physical health - As we grow older, we can develop more conditions that we need to manage or simply do not have the same amount of energy that we used to, sometimes leaving us less able to do the things we love.
  • Recent ill health - Recovering from a recent fall or getting over an illness can be difficult, both physically and mentally, as you get older.
  • Loneliness - If you live alone then the lack of social contact, especially in recent years, may take a toll on your mental health and could really impact on how you feel day-to-day. 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder - For some people, the change in seasons can really impact their mood. When the days are darker and colder it can be more difficult to feel cheerful and motivated.

How can you help elevate your mood?

Mental wellbeing is something we all should work on regardless of our age. There are lots of things we can do to help to keep ourselves healthy in both mind and body: 
  • Fresh air and exercise - Keeping active is important. Getting out in the fresh air, especially in a green space, and exploring the great outdoors can help boost your mood. You could even try some gentle yoga to help you to relax and stay flexible. 
  • Socialising - Seeing old friends or meeting new people can help you feel connected to others, which is extremely important for older adult mental health to prevent feelings of loneliness. Even using technology to feel connected, like phone calls or video calls, with friends and family can really help give your mood a boost.
  • Hobbies - It’s never too late to start a new hobby, having new goals to concentrate on will help provide a more positive outlook and a confidence boost from trying something new, like gardening.
  • Exercising mental agility - A great way to keep your mind sharp is with activities like crosswords, sudoku or puzzles, or even trying new games on a tablet or mobile. 
  • Music - Listening to uplifting music, or even having a sing or dance along, can make you feel instantly cheerful - try reading all about tea dancing for some inspiration!
  • Balanced diet - Eating a balanced diet is key to keeping healthy both physically and mentally. Sometimes shopping and cooking can be a challenge, especially if you are struggling with your mood. Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods we can deliver our delicious ready meals straight to your door, making eating well easier.
  • Sleep -  Trying to get a good nights’ sleep each day, aiming for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, should really help improve both your mood and attention span. 

Where to find support?

Try to regularly check in on how you’re feeling and note any changes to your mood. If you don’t feel right, there’s lots of support available and mental health services for older people to help you feel better.
 
It is also a good idea to get in touch with your GP. You may find it difficult to approach your GP, but they will want to hear from you and help you if you’re not feeling quite right.
 
Before you speak to them, try making a list of how you’ve been feeling to help you to talk through your concerns. Have you been feeling low or worried? How has this impacted what you do in your day-to-day life, are you struggling to sleep, or have you been avoiding contact with others? 
 
Being able to clearly communicate all this information will help the doctor get a better picture of what you are experiencing and will mean they are better able to help. 
 
If you are concerned about your own mental wellbeing or of a loved one, always seek the help of a professional for support.

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