Over the last century, the average life expectancy for an American adult has risen by 30 years. While this is a wonderful statistic in many ways, a person’s life should be measured by its quality and not in numbers. There is no getting away from the fact that life changes as people age, bringing new challenges, but this does not necessarily mean that old age has to be a downward spiral.
Research has found that older people are more prone to strokes, heart disease, decreased cognitive functioning and reduced mobility when their mental health and emotional wellbeing declines. It is therefore important that senior people in our society are valued, respected, and given the opportunities to contribute to their family, friends, and society in a meaningful way.
This guide outlines how you can improve a senior person’s quality of life.
Give them a sense of identity and value
It does not matter whether we are 10, 30, 60, or 90 years old; we want and need to feel valued and useful. There is a terrible stigma around older people that they no longer have as much to offer society or that their skills and opinions no longer matter, but this could not be further from the truth. In some cases, older people start to view themselves as less valuable, which can significantly impact their mental and physical health.
In reality, older people have a wealth of experience, treasured memories, and knowledge that younger generations should be learning from. They deserve the same respect as any other person, so do not let them accept anything less. Even if they are no longer able to get out into the community to help, they can be useful in plenty of other ways. It can be tempting to want to take care of someone we care about, but if they are able to help, let them. They may be able to provide childcare or to look after a pet, to help with cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry, or running errands.
Monitor their mental health
Depression is a surprisingly common mental health issue for people of all ages, but seniors are often at particularly high risk. We have a varied social circle, a career, children who depend on us, and partners who care about us throughout our lives. Over time our friends and family members move away, children fly the nest, the people we care about pass away, and deteriorating physical health can lead to a loss of independence. It is essential to be alert to potential signs of depression in someone we are close to, as it can be a serious and debilitating condition when left untreated. Click here for common signs of depression to be aware of.
Help them to make social connections
Unfortunately, many older people can struggle with loneliness and poor self-esteem, both of which can contribute to depression, so it is important that they remain connected with friends and family. When a person becomes lonely, they may begin to withdraw even further and might be reluctant to tell people how they feel as they do not want to burden or worry others. Older people should be included in family communications and occasions as much as possible, and even a weekly phone call to check on them can make all the difference.
It is also a good idea to encourage senior people to maintain friendships, socialize regularly, and meet new people. If a senior person is living on their own and there are not many opportunities to see family or socialize with people of the same generation, consider a move to a senior a Brandywine Senior Living community such as Brandywine Living. Whether they are still able to live independently or need daily assistance, these facilities combine essential support with regular opportunities to socialize and participate in a range of interesting activities.
Encourage physical activity
There is no denying that a person’s physical fitness and health can become more complex as they get older. To increase the likelihood that a senior person will be able to remain independent and in good health, they should be exercising regularly. The level of exercise they can do will depend on a number of factors, but even simple stretching exercises, light strength training, and/or walking each day will help. Maintaining their physical fitness can also directly impact their mental health and emotional wellbeing as it can lead to more confidence and pride, as well as a surge in mood-boosting endorphins.
Help them to stay mentally sharp
Many older people find that their cognitive processing and/or memory deteriorates with age, but this is not inevitable. Generally speaking, the more a person uses their brain, and the longer they continue to pursue learning, the sharper their cognitive skills will be. You can help a senior person use their brain as much as possible by organizing new experiences and challenges that interest them. People should continue exploring the world and educating themselves for as long as possible. Make a point of asking them questions, encouraging them to recall memories, and requesting their opinion as much as possible. This also helps to reinforce their self-esteem as you are valuing their unique perspective on the world and what they have achieved during their life.
Find a way for them to contribute to the community
A big contributing factor to a person’s self-esteem is whether they feel that they positively impact other people, their community, and the natural environment. There are lots of ways that a senior person can make the world a better place, such as volunteering, mentoring children, teaching new skills to adult learners, picking up litter, or providing everyday assistance or friendship to disabled adults or seniors who require more support than they do. Whether they are able to provide physical help or can pick up the phone to chat with an isolated person, there is no age limit to a human’s ability to make a difference.