Diet and exercise are usually top of mind when thinking about senior health and wellness, but there is a mental health component that is equally as important for aging well. Self-care is a concept that has been on the rise over the past two decades, especially as the world has been moving at a faster digital pace. Self-care has been defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
Self-care is often discussed within caregiver circles — with frazzled moms struggling to manage work/life balance or with adult children caring for aging parents and their own family or work responsibilities. But senior self-care is equally as important; the Centers for Disease Control’s State of Mental Health and Aging in America report found that about 20 percent of people over the age of 55 experience some sort of mental health concern, the most common of which are anxiety and depression. The report also identifies the fact that social and emotional support can greatly reduce the risk for mental health concerns, which means that senior self-care should always incorporate those two aspects.
Self-Care Activities for Seniors
Keeping in mind that self-care activities for seniors should benefit both the social and emotional aspects of their lives, here is a list of self-care tips for elderly adults that will satisfy both of those things:
Spend Time in Nature with a Friend. Scientific studies have found that immersing yourself in nature can have calming effects on your mind. A natural environment is the perfect place for self-care, especially if you recruit a good friend or family member to join you. A nice long walk on the beach, a nature walk through the woods, or a hike up a mountain provide a calming backdrop for social and emotional connection.
Start a Gratitude Journal. Aging is not always easy, and it can become commonplace to feel pessimistic about things in our lives that are out of our control. But giving yourself time every day or every week to acknowledge and record the things you are grateful for can have a positive impact on your life. An article about the benefits of gratitude published by Harvard Health explains that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Organize a Weekly Phone Call or Dinner with a Loved One. Isolation and loneliness are contributing factors of senior depression. A wonderful way to combat depression and indulge in some self-care, is to schedule a weekly phone call or dinner with a loved one. And if you opt for the phone call instead of an in-person dinner, you can still get face time with your friend or family member. With improvements to technology over the years, phone calls don’t just have to be an audio experience — you can use a computer to video chat via Skype, or use an iPhone or iPad to FaceTime. The key is to schedule these calls the same way you would schedule a dinner: make it more official by putting it on your calendar.
Start or Join a Book Club. In addition to the mental stimulation of reading a book and using your imagination, the social component of a book club is a wonderful way to practice senior self-care. If you’re not sure where to start looking for a book club to join, try one of your local college campuses. Many colleges and universities now offer book clubs for seniors that are moderated by their professors. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy sharing the experience of reading books with other people.
See a Therapist Every Week. Although therapy carried a negative stigma for many years, therapy has proven to be an invaluable resource for stress and difficult emotions that arise in your life. While it may not seem like something that should be on a list of self-care activities for seniors, treating yourself to regular therapy sessions can help you sleep better at night, lower your risk of depression, and even reduce feelings of back pain.
When Senior Self-Care and Safety Intersect
Although these self-care tips for elderly adults focused on the social and emotional components of wellness, the physical and organizational components are important as well. Being proactive about your health needs as you age is a necessity when it comes to self-care, albeit something that many people choose to overlook.
A Medical Guardian medical alert device is a great example of how to be more proactive about your health as you age. Medical alert devices are proven to improve the health outcomes for those who experience falls, both inside and outside of the home. Many people wait until they’ve already experienced a medical emergency before making an investment in a medical alert device, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Purchasing a medical alert device before an accident happens is a great way to practice self-care on a daily basis. Consider it an investment in yourself and your well being.