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The Role of Mental Health in Seniors

In observance of National Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the spotlight is now turning toward a previously overlooked demographic: seniors. While mental health has gained significant attention in recent years, researchers are uncovering the unique challenges faced by older adults. As we strive to pave the way for healthy seniors, it’s crucial to value the importance of a positive mental health mindset and habits.

The psychology of aging is changing. As they start to retire, baby boomers are changing the way we think about senior citizens and mental health awareness. According to a study from the Institute on Medicine, approximately 1 in 5 older adults in the United States has a mental illness, substance abuse disorder or both.

Researchers who have studied mental wellness over a lifespan noticed that older adults with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, are more likely to experience depression as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that for seniors, doctors may dismiss concerns of depression or loneliness, and seniors are left misdiagnosed or undertreated. 

In fact, due to the longtime cultural stigma around mental health issues, seniors may be more reluctant to seek help, or they may dismiss their own concerns because they do not believe that they need assistance to feel better. 

Reasons Why Seniors Struggle With Mental Health

There are various reasons that seniors often struggle with mental health concerns, and while there are no set causes, research has shown that these factors are related to the risk of mental illness but do not necessarily cause it:

•    Medical conditions, such as stroke or cancer
•    Genes – people who have a family history of depression may be at higher risk
•    Stress, including caregiver stress
•    Sleep problems
•    Social isolation and loneliness
•    Lack of exercise or physical activity
•    Functional limitations that make engaging in activities of daily living difficult
•    Addiction and/or alcoholism 

Life transitions related to the environment and changes in circumstances can also trigger periods of mental health disturbance. Transitioning from a lengthy career, experiencing family relocation or adjusting to life in a senior living community can evoke feelings of anxiety and depression in otherwise healthy seniors. 

During these times of transition, team members at Anthology Senior Living communities are equipped with the resources to aid residents. Don’t be afraid to seek out mental health programs for older adults and encourage mental health improvement activities, such as exercising and meditation. 

Moving for Seniors

Some life events, such as a big move, can trigger more emotional changes in seniors. When moving into a senior living community, treat the transition with care. There are several emotional stages of moving, and some seniors could become depressed after moving to a new home. If emotions about moving arise, it can cause psychological challenges in older adults. 

To ensure quality of life for seniors who are moving, pay attention to any emotions or feelings your loved one might have, and help them process each consideration to help mitigate the emotional challenges that may come up.

Talk to your loved one about the benefits of living in a retirement community, and if necessary, encourage conversations and utilize community and Anthology Senior Living support to gather resources about mental health services for seniors. 

Social Connections Are Essential for Healthy Seniors

Another benefit of living in an Anthology Senior Living community is the opportunity to meet new people and create new social connections, which can ease the stress from moving. Communities like Anthology of Blue Ash help welcome new residents by introducing them to fellow neighbors and inviting them to dine with their new friends. 

Social connections are essential for not only surviving but also thriving. However, as individuals age, they frequently discover themselves spending increasing amounts of time in solitude. Research indicates that loneliness and social isolation are correlated with elevated levels of depression.

At Anthology Senior Living communities like our new Anthology of Boynton Beach neighborhood, our team strives to encourage every resident to socialize with their neighbors and caregiving teams – the people they see every day. Having these solid interpersonal relationships helps reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which boosts mood and helps maintain health and wellness. 

Overall, mental health is important in every stage of our lives and is crucially important in seniors due to the significant life changes that happen after retirement. Open communication about mental health concerns in seniors can help reduce the stigma and allow more older adults to seek help for these conditions, allowing them to live enriching and engaging lives and an enhanced quality of life. 

Are you looking for an Anthology community near you? New communities like Anthology of The Arboretum in Austin, Texas, are opening soon! Contact us today and hear about all of our beautiful senior living communities.