Senior Mental Health: Tips To Improve Cognitive & Mental Health
The brain, one of the most vital organs in the body, is in charge of functions like emotions, breathing, memory, motor skills, and so on. Ageing is natural; as we grow old, many changes happen to the human body, including a physical and mental decline of the brain and other bodily functions.
According to researchers, it is common for the elderly to struggle to multitask or recall small details as their brain tends to shrink or have inflammation which causes less blood flow. As seniors find it difficult to cope with these, making a few lifestyle changes and routines can make it easier to adapt and improve their mental health and wellness.
Understanding The Brain Health
Brain health refers to how well one’s brain functions based on:-
- Cognitive health is the ability to think, memorise, understand, and learn.
- Motor functions and coordination that include movement, balance etc.
- Emotional processes are based on stress, anxiety, and your response to emotions.
- Tactile functions are based on various sensations and responses to pain, pleasure and temperature.
Several factors can affect one’s brain’s health, like mental illnesses like severe depression and anxiety, stroke and brain disorders, age-related symptoms and diseases like Alzheimer’s, and many more. While age-related symptoms and genetics cannot be controlled, taking small steps to improve one’s brain’s life can prevent mental health issues and the risk of diseases like dementia, cognitive health and heart failure.
Here are a few steps older adults can take for positive mental health and improved brain function:
1. A Healthy Diet for An Optimal Brain Functioning
As simple as it sounds, eating healthy can lead to a healthy body and mind. As seniors need more nutrients than younger adults, here is the list of things to include in the diet:
- Fruits rich in flavonoids, especially berries, fight inflammation and stress that is detrimental to brain health.
- Nuts and seeds contain omega three and essential nutrients like vitamin E, iron and magnesium to improve memory.
- Fatty fish with Omega 3 is excellent for mental health and brain cells.
- Last but not least, fresh leafy vegetables like spinach, kale etc., are loaded with essential; vitamins and minerals for brain nourishment.
- Taking care of portion size, prioritising whole foods, and limiting sugars and carbs can slow down the ageing of the brain and heart.
2. Prioritising Physical Health
Being physically active by doing physical workouts and household chores can help in various ways. It aids in improving strength and balance, increases blood flow to the brain and heart, enhances mood, and many more. Even the fitness journey starts later in life – a brisk walk in the park or neighbourhood or learning new workout routines like Tai Chi, yoga etc., can all help in the prevention of mental illness and can improve one’s health and energy. Before starting a vigorous workout regime, it is better to check with the physician.
3. Playing Mind Games and Brain Exercises
Engaging in intellectual activities can help improve cognitive functioning. Mental exercises like puzzles, online word games, and brain training apps can help you stay sharp. Keeping the brain engaged helps increase the memory power and ability to recall, enhance moods, and reduce the risk of several mental health disorders. Learning a new skill or practising hobbies can aid mental stimulation while lowering stress and anxiety.
4. Friends For Life
Being in contact with your loved ones and friends helps to boost one’s health and wellness. Connecting with community programs and volunteering are ways to create new friendships and reduce various signs of mental illness caused by loneliness and anxiety.
Communicating and engaging in social activities like dancing, gardening etc., stimulate mental and physical fitness.
5. Caring For A Pet
Many studies have found that caring for a pet improves one’s mental health issues and physical fitness. Older adults who love animals can volunteer or rescue dogs or cats based on their capabilities. These animals often offer companionship and happiness to the owners with their unconditional love. Walking the pet, caring for, and bonding with the animals can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and boost brain health.
6. Sticking To The Sleep Schedule
Getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep is the best way to enhance mental functioning. Sleep problems like distracted and disturbed sleep, sleep disorders, and apnea can lead to an exhausted body and brain. Try to adopt a good sleeping routine by going early to bed, removing distractions etc., to improve memory, cognitive ability, and overall boost one’s health.
7. Get Help From A Therapist
Knowing when to get help and getting help is important to reduce the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Symptoms like memory loss, higher heart rate etc., can be due to a panic attack or depression. Identifying the triggers and talking to a licensed therapist, friends, and family may help in improving and raising mental health awareness.
8. Managing blood pressure
It is important to note that heart health is related to brain health. Lower the blood pressure, and lower the risk of dementia and other diseases. Regular check-ups and maintenance of the blood pressure through medication or lifestyle changes help in improving mental agility.
Ageing gracefully doesn’t have to slow down in life. `it takes a lot of practice and patience to maintain a healthy lifestyle. With many unavoidable risk factors, making small life changes can help improve one’s health and boost cognitive agility. The sooner, the better.
Why is mental health important?
Mental health in seniors is important for them to remain healthy and happy. It helps maintain brain health, control emotions and stress, and prevent various diseases.
What does stress do to the brain?
Stress affects the brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It brings about impaired cognitive ability and brain functioning, leading to memory loss, spatial memory etc.
How can we solve mental health problems?
Senior citizens need to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, connect with friends and family to reduce loneliness, and keep themselves engaged with brain games and mental stimulators to improve memory and cognition ability.
What are the 5 causes of mental health?
Several factors affect mental health – social stigma and unawareness, racism, loneliness, trauma or chronic illness, social disadvantage, loss of a loved one, etc. It can affect anyone at any age.
How do you deal with a mentally ill person?
Dealing with a mentally ill person should be with utmost patience and calmness. Senior adults suffering from mental illness symptoms may have a lot of negative and suicidal thoughts. Reassurance and listening to them patiently go a long way.
What are the signs of mental illness?
Some of the symptoms of mental illness include excessive or disruptive sleep patterns, extreme emotional outbursts, excessive anxiety and depression, social withdrawal etc.
How do I get rid of stress?
It is important to understand the underlying cause and remove the trigger. E.g., it might be due to a person, environment, or anxiety disorder. Breathing techniques, physical and mental activities, proper sleep and diet can help reduce stress.