How to Encourage Mental Health in Senior Living Communities
Happier living is healthier living so make sure you or your senior loved one look out for their mental health by staying connected to people and meaningful activities at their senior living community.
There’s a saying “Be thankful for the chance to grow old. It’s a gift that is not granted to everyone”. And indeed, growing older does bring many wonderful gifts. The happiness of watching children and grandchildren growing up, graduating from school, and getting married. The joy of welcoming grand babies into the family. And the satisfaction of retiring from the working world and having time to devote to doing the things you love.
But growing older can bring challenges as well. Dealing with loss, loneliness, and declining physical health can lead to the development of debilitating mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which is why it is important to know how to encourage mental health in senior living communities.
Studies show that as many as 1 in 5 seniors face mental health problems that are not age-related. The signs and symptoms often go unnoticed or are just chalked up to a loved one getting older, but it’s important to keep an eye out for them. Here are a few to look out for:
- Sleeping more than 12 hours a day
- Staying at home instead of going out to see friends or engage in social activities
- Increased forgetfulness
- Substance abuse
- Increased fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Noticeable changes in behavior
- Lack of interest in doing things they used to enjoy
What steps can be taken to encourage mental health in senior living communities? The good news is, there are a wide range of strategies and practical actions that can help seniors enjoy a sense of mental well-being:
- Promote Personal Relationships – If you or your loved one are a resident of a senior living community, you are immersed in an environment designed to foster social connections. Instead of having to drive yourself, take a bus, or get a ride to see friends and family, you can simply step out of the door of your living space. Most independent and assisted living communities are designed like dorms where the sight of a friendly face and the chance to meet up are always just around the corner.
- Engage in Social Activities – Most senior living communities provide a wealth of opportunities to forge and strengthen personal relationships by offering a wide range of easily accessible activities that keep people involved and connected. These can include:
- Entertainment – Senior living communities often host musical concerts, bring in stimulating guest lecturers, and screen movies that draw residents out of their living spaces to enjoy themselves in the company of others.
- Classes – An active mind is a healthy mind, which is why many senior living communities make a point of offering a wide range of classes that keep residents mentally engaged in a social setting. These might include things like instruction in painting, scrapbooking, jewelry making, or researching family history.
- Physical Exercise – Scientific studies focused on depression and anxiety show that regular exercise can help elevate mood and reduce anxiety as well as improve physical health. Whether it’s joining in on a group session of low impact stretching, light weight lifting, balance exercises, or simply taking a daily walk around the grounds with friends, senior living communities make it easy to enjoy the many psychological and physical benefits of staying active.
- Clubs – Drawing people with shared interests together to indulge their passion for reading, bird-watching, card-playing or knitting can go a long way to keeping loneliness at bay. The opportunities to join or create a vibrant social club with like-minded people at a senior living community are virtually unlimited.
- Volunteering – Few things make people feel happier than knowing they are helping others through volunteer efforts in their community. Senior living communities are a place where residents can meet and participate in charitable activities that might include knitting caps for needy newborns, putting together care packages to send to overseas military personnel, or simply attending a fundraising event.
- Offer Spiritual Outlets and Support – Many senior living communities feature sacred spaces such as a chapel or meeting room where residents can gather for worship and fellowship. Others offer opportunities to engage in spiritually elevating practices such as meditation and yoga. Keeping up with faith traditions or creating new ones can help lift seniors’ spirits, provide comfort, and improve mental health and emotional well-being.
While seniors who remain living at home can get involved in many activities that promote better mental health, senior living communities make them much more accessible to those who might be physically unable to get out and about.
Taking care of the mind and spirit is just as important as working to stay physically healthy because it builds the kind of emotional resilience and social well-being that can help seniors successfully deal with the inevitable challenges that come in later years. Happier living is healthier living, so make sure you or your senior loved one looks out for their mental health by staying connected to people, meaningful activities, and the community.
MorningStar Senior Living
If your loved one lives far from family and friends, it could be time to move into a senior living community near their adult children where they’ll have the companionship of fellow seniors and a compassionate service team. At MorningStar Senior Living, a 24/7 team is dedicated to offer care and hospitality services that meet each resident’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.