Mental Health & Wellness Tips for Seniors & Baby Boomers

by Fit After Fifty
Close-up of a man moving a chess piece

The “live fast, die young” approach may be appealing earlier on in life, but at a certain point, we can’t ignore the importance of properly taking care of ourselves. To improve your quality of life and get the most out of every day, keep these mental health and wellness tips in mind!

Socialize

Social isolation has been linked to both poor mental health and cognitive decline. So, from the looks of it, it pays to socialize.

Socializing may be as simple as spending time with your family or babysitting your grandkids. In fact, one study suggests that watching their grandkids helps keep grandmothers mentally sharp.

You can also make a point of meeting up with friends on a regular basis, whether it’s for dinner or a hobby you all share. And if you’re looking to make new friends, consider volunteering, participating in a religious or community group, or even joining a senior sports league.

Luckily, connecting with others is easier than ever, even if your friends and loved ones live far away. Use Skype or FaceTime to video call, schedule calls throughout the week to connect with distant family and longtime friends, and email to touch base with your professional and personal contacts.

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Get a Pet

Get a furry friend! Research shows the benefits of pets in animal-assisted therapy for seniors, including helping to relieve boredom and social isolation and reduce blood pressure, agitation, and depression.

If you can care for a more high-maintenance pet such as a dog, you’ll also get the physical benefits (and fun) of walking it every day. A cat is a great option if you want an animal that will mostly look after itself, but you could also go with something a bit more unusual — like a pig!

[Related: Benefits of Adopting a Pet as You Age]

Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits

Many people prescribe to the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality as a means to get more done. What they don’t realize is that sleep deprivation actually shortens life expectancy — so they’ll find out if they can, indeed, sleep when they’re dead sooner than the rest of us will.

Sleep deprivation can also make you gain weight, become more forgetful, age more quickly, and get sick more often. On top of that, a poor sleep schedule — such as napping during the day and not sleeping through the night — contributes to mental fogginess.

The best way to get enough sleep is to maintain a consistent routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeinated beverages in the evenings, and turn off all devices with screens (cellphones, laptops, and TVs) an hour before bed.

[Related: How to Improve Your Sleep as You Age]

Eat a Healthy Diet

Food is medicine, yet a lot of people give little to no thought to what they put in their bodies.

As we age, maintaining proper nutrition becomes even more important. What you eat is directly related to how energetic and mentally sharp you feel. Certain foods are known to help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain, and others to improve gut health.

For proper nutrition, include lots of colorful fruits and veggies, lean meats, and whole grain foods in your diet.

[Related: Choosing the Right Foods After Age 50]

Manage Medications

Medications are supposed to help us, but if mismanaged, they can do more harm than good.

Make sure that you are aware of what medications your doctor has prescribed, and that you take them in the right dosages and at the right times. Keep a detailed list with this information so you don’t forget, and consider sharing a copy with a loved one as well.

Medications can also cause problems if you are taking multiple and they negatively interact with one another — known as polypharmacy. Check with your doctor to ensure that you’re only taking what you really need to be to limit potential cognitive side effects.

Exercise

Exercise and healthy eating habits are important no matter what your age, but fitness is particularly important as we get older. Fit bodies move better, recover faster, and last longer, giving us a better quality of life so that we can enjoy it more with the ones we love.

Regular movement doesn’t only affect physical health, though: Mental health improves with exercise, too.

In fact, studies have shown that exercise can improve brain activity and cognitive function and reduce the risk of mental decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Unsurprisingly, overweight elderly people have been shown to have a greater risk of mental decline.

Luckily, we have a limitless amount of physical activities to choose from!

[Related: Starting to Exercise After Age 50]

Maintain Good Cardiovascular Health

Smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure are cardiovascular risk factors that damage the vessels in your brain, affecting the way that it will age. Some of these factors may be hereditary, but changing any unhealthy habits that contribute to them is crucial to reduce risks.

To promote good cardiovascular health, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and monitor your blood pressure.

Stimulate Your Mind

You’ve probably heard that doing puzzles can help keep your brain sharp, and it’s not a joke. Engaging your brain is an effective way to protect it from aging; plus, it can be fun!

Reading and participating in games and puzzles that require strategy (think along the lines of checkers, sudoku, and chess) all count as mental exercise. You can even download games on your phone or tablet that are designed to stimulate your brain. Just remember to perform these activities regularly, or you won’t see the benefits.

Looking for more health and wellness tips?

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