Mental Health for Older Adults: Where to Start

Senior man at home with caregiver

Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, yet many older adults struggle with loneliness, isolation, and other related challenges. The most recent “State of Mental Health in America” report (2023) reveals the depth of these issues, showing a significant rise in loneliness, substance misuse, and suicidal thoughts among seniors.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the theme is “Where to Start.” That’s encouragement for all of us to discuss steps that older adults can take to begin prioritizing their mental health. While the stigma around discussing mental health is still present among many older generations, acknowledging these challenges and seeking support can be life changing. Here are some practical steps to start on the journey toward better mental health.

Where to start: how older adults can prioritize their mental health

  1. Break the silence: Begin by sharing how you’re feeling with a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare provider. Opening up about your emotions or challenges is the first step in reducing isolation.
  2. Engage in social activities: Loneliness and social isolation significantly impact mental health. Join community groups, volunteer, or participate in local events to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.
  3. Stay physically active: Regular physical activity has been proven to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve sleep. Even gentle activities like walking or yoga can positively affect mental health.
  4. Explore hobbies and interests: Take up hobbies that keep your mind engaged, whether it’s gardening, painting, reading, or learning new skills. Having an enjoyable activity provides structure and joy to your days.
  5. Seek professional help: Reach out to a mental health professional if you’re experiencing persistent sadness, anxiety, or overwhelming stress. Counseling or therapy can provide coping strategies, while medication may also be helpful.
  6. Connect with support groups: Many communities have support groups for seniors dealing with similar issues. Finding others who understand your experiences can reduce loneliness and provide practical advice.
  7. Mind your nutrition: A healthy diet can support better mental health. Ensure you’re eating balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and stay hydrated throughout the day.
  8. Plan for the future: Concerns about health, finances, or housing can cause anxiety. Discuss your future plans with a care manager or financial advisor to put strategies in place, relieving stress.
  9. Learn relaxation techniques: Practices like deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness can reduce stress and help you manage emotions. Find simple relaxation exercises that fit into your daily routine.

While many older adults might hesitate to discuss their mental health, it’s important to understand that seeking support can lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life. Taking even small steps can have a positive impact on your or your loved one’s well-being. Begin with one or two of the suggestions above, and remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Your mental health matters, and now is the best time to start caring for it.

How LifeCare Advocates can help

Our mission is to help our clients age well and safely in their chosen home. That includes working with clients and their families, when appropriate, to ensure they have access to mental health resources. We also help ensure the client follows their healthcare providers’ plan of care. Please contact us to learn more about our services.