Between a decline in mobility, death, illness, and simply coping with getting older, it’s not uncommon for seniors to become depressed — in fact, depression peaks in the elderly. Overall, nearly 322 million people from around the world suffer from depression.
Signs of depression include loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, reduced energy levels, change in appetite, and different sleeping patterns. It’s important that you take control of your physical and mental health in order to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyle in your golden years. Here’s how to get started.
As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” That is why exercise is important for people of all ages. However, statistics indicate that only one in four seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 exercises regularly. Physical activity can help the elderly improve muscle strength, reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, improve bone density, reduce the risk of developing dementia, prevent or delay a variety of chronic diseases, increase self-confidence and independence, and improve one’s mood, thus fighting off depression. Walking, weight training, swimming, and yoga are all great activities for seniors, but make sure you check with a doctor beforehand.
Make It Easier to Eat Healthfully
With age comes changes in metabolism, digestive system, and eating habits, so it’s important that you strive for a healthy, balanced diet. If mobility or health issues make it difficult to get groceries or prepare a nutritious meal, prevent gravitating toward a poor diet of convenience foods by using a grocer and/or meal delivery service. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about what foods you should be eating and make a list for yourself to follow. Consider taking one day out of the week to pre-prepare some meals for the freezer and prep snacks and other meals by prepping the ingredients — don’t be afraid to institute the help of a loved one.
Build a Strong Social Network
Staying social is one of the keys to fighting depression, yet sometimes it takes an effort to get yourself out there. Some ways to remain engaged include joining a senior center to take part in activities, clubs, classes, and day trips for little or no charge; taking an adult continuing education course at a university; taking a senior vacation with an organized group; signing up for a senior sports league; volunteering; and finding a new hobby — or rediscovering an old one. Even though many seniors can be tech-phobic, research suggests that social media is actually a great way for you to stay in touch with friends, join groups where you can engage in conversation or friendly debate, and improve relationships with children and grandchildren.
Create a Sleeping Plan
Make it easier to get shuteye by creating a sleeping plan. For example, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends; avoid mid-day or evening naps; avoid electronics at least one hour before bedtime; finish dinner at least three hours before bed; avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar late in the day; and keep your bedroom clutter-free and make sure bedding and the mattress are comfortable.
Get a Pet
Research indicates that owning a pet can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce depression, and lessen loneliness. Just make sure you’re ready to take care of an animal, so consider your state of health, financial status, and temperament before making a final decision. Next, research the type of breed you’d be comfortable with — an animal that isn’t overly rambunctious and anxious is a better choice for the elderly.
Lifestyle changes alone aren’t the golden tickets to health and happiness. It’s important that you go to the doctor regularly — especially if you’re feeling sad or sick. Statistics show that loneliness can keep seniors away from the doctor, so don’t let your negative emotions get the best of you. When you feel better in body and mind, your spirit will feel better, too.
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