Growing older brings about life changes, such as retirement, relocation, or learning to manage medical conditions, which can affect a person’s mental wellness. And, as certain mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, impact approximately 20% of people age 55 and older nationwide, preserving seniors’ mental health is critical. Luckily, there are free or low-cost ways to naturally boost seniors’ mental health so they can continue enjoying life as they age.

An older adult couple stands in front of a tree. The man has his arm around the woman and they smile.

How to boost seniors’ mental health

With an eye on keeping the body fueled and moving, the brain thinking, and social connection, these tips can help boost a senior’s mental health.

Maintain healthy habits

Follow healthy habits to keep your mental health in good shape as you age.

  • Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Quality sleep helps your body and mind relax and rejuvenate.
  • Eat healthy food to provide your body and brain with enough energy. Vegetables and fruits should make up about half of every meal.
  • Maintain a routine. You can try to do certain daily activities around the same time each day, like sleeping, bathing, eating, and exercising.
  • Try to stay inside during cold, rain, or extreme heat.

Keep your mind active

Keeping the brain active can help maintain cognitive abilities and a senior’s mental health. Consider reading about topics of interest, as reading helps maintain memory function, reduces stress, and promotes better sleep. Puzzles can stimulate the mind, like crosswords, word searches, number puzzles, or physical puzzles. Card games, whether one- or multi-player, are also activities that keep the mind active.

Exercise or stay physically active

Physical activity helps boost mental health and mood. Regular walks, stretching safely, or joining an available fitness class can keep the body moving. A normal exercise routine is good for many reasons, such as keeping the body healthy, relieving aches and pains, and dealing with anxiety and stress.

Stay socially connected

Getting help from friends, family, loved ones, a social group, or your community can be a great way to boost a senior’s mental health and cope with social isolation, anxiety, or depression. Joining community-based programs or ones offered in the senior living community help a person stay socially connected. Volunteering for a meaningful cause gives you fulfillment and a sense of purpose. Learning how to keep in touch with new and old friends via social media, FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype are just a few examples. If you are not tech-savvy, get help from someone familiar with social media platforms.

Try a new hobby

Learning new skills benefits the brain. After retirement, individuals might have time to do the things they’ve always wanted. Learning new skills, like gardening, drawing, or fishing, helps to keep the brain healthy and strong. Play board games that challenge the brain and keep it active. Learning new skills can provide a sense of accomplishment that feed a positive self-image.

Have a pet

Animals, with their selfless love, can keep older adults active and engaged while providing companionship. Research shows that the bonding between humans and their pets may improve fitness, reduce stress, and promote happiness. Other health advantages of owning a pet include

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • More opportunities for networking 

If an older adult doesn’t want or cannot own a pet, helping at a rescue center is a good opportunity to bond with animals while supporting organizations in need.

Take it one step at a time

There are many ideas to help improve a senior’s mental wellness. It’s essential to take it one step at a time. It’s easy to become swept up in wanting to try new things, but doing too much at once may cause stress. Make a list. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Completing one task at a time might help convey a sense of satisfaction.

Pay attention to medications’ side effects

As people grow older, they may begin to take more medications, and some could increase the risk of feeling stressed and anxious. For example, certain allergy medicines and medications for anxiety have depression as a side effect. Discussing the possible side effects of medication with one’s health care provider is essential. 

It is essential for older adults to maintain their mental health; without a strong and stable mind, they are more exposed to diseases and health conditions. A healthy lifestyle and emotional support from family, friends, and loved ones will help older adults live with happiness and satisfaction.