Caring for your mental health is important across the lifespan. Throughout childhood and adolescence, choosing positive coping skills and building resiliency help us battle some of life’s curveballs. As we move into adulthood, our responsibilities become greater and our stress levels can peak. This is where we can continue practicing our youthful, healthy coping mechanisms and begin to perfect hobbies and crafts we enjoy; all leading to a healthy body and mind. When we tap out of adulthood and enter the 55/65 or better population, we desperately need to practice regular self-care. Given the statistics, at this stage of life, it is critical.
Ninety percent of people who die by suicide experienced an underlying mental illness, whether it was diagnosed or not (6). Suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death among adults (5). The mature population has an alarmingly high rate of suicide, with those 85 and older having the highest rate of suicide among all adults (5).
As scary as these facts can be, find solace knowing that there is a way to improve our mental state at this point in our life.
I recently gave a presentation to a group of mature adults. In preparation for this talk, I learned a few things that may help this age group care for their mental health and ward off suicidal thoughts or actions.
- Stay active – Keep the body and mind moving by taking part in a local gym class. The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association published a study that found a significant decrease in depression symptoms in seniors that took a 60-minute dance class once a week (1). If you are limited physically, chair exercises can be a great way to engage those muscles.
- Stay involved – Isolation can be a cause as well as a symptom of depression. Keep in touch with family and friends. Plan a grocery trip with a friend or have them over for dinner. Stay close to family by scheduling regular calls or video chats. Technology can be of tremendous help to someone who may have physical ailments to keep them in touch with loved ones.
- Learn something new – Going back to school can be an easy way to connect socially and keep the mind challenged. Some community colleges may even offer online courses for those that may not be able to leave home.
- Play games – Another way to keep your brain healthy and stimulated is by playing games – word puzzles, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, Solitaire, etc. Make it a social event by hosting a card game at your home.
- Get a pet – According to a review on animal therapy in the Current Gerontology and Geriatric Research, animals make seniors more socially engaged, less depressed, and less agitated (1). You can either adopt a pet or make regular visits to an animal shelter or breeder.
Whatever you decide to do to take of your health, make it something that you WANT to do. Take time to enjoy your hobbies and keep a careful watch on your mind. If you are caring for someone in the older population, help them stay mentally healthy by engaging in a few of the activities above.
If you or someone you love is dealing with concerning thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Janae Shillito, Community Relations Director, The Kim Foundation, http://www.thekimfoundation.org/
Janae Shillito has been with The Kim Foundation since February 2017. She holds two science degrees with her alma maters including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Janae’s love of volunteering and helping those without a voice created a strong desire to become a part of the non-profit world. In her spare time, she enjoys anything crafty, reading a good book, and being outside with her husband, Cory, and Rottweiler, Hank.