It’s no secret that older adults have specific mental health needs. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four older adults experience a mental health disorder like dementia, depression, and anxiety; and that number is expected to increase to 15 million by 2030. 1 With the unexpected impact of COVID-19, it is likely the mental health of older adults may have a significant impact on current data.
When we first learned of COVID-19, we heard about the effect the disease was having on older adults. Because of the number of older adults developing and dying from the disease, and the factor that having a chronic disease increases the risk of acquiring SAR-CoV-2, older adults were told to take extra precautions and shelter in place. There were videos of grandparents waving at their family and friends from windows, and even a viral image of a contraption a family constructed so that a grandmother could hug her grandchildren.
Isolation, financial issues, and uncertainty of the future can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, here are a few ways that you can take control of your mental health:
Teletherapy – Medicare telehealth services has expanded so that more older adults can have access to counselors.
Call someone – Simply picking up the phone to call someone may make you feel better.
Zoom – People are using Zoom more than ever to connect with their friends, family, and co-workers. There are even people who have celebrated birthdays and baby showers on the platform. It’s simple to use once you get the hang of it.
Go for a walk – Safely go for a walk outside. Getting some sun and exercise can give you a mental boost.
Exercise indoors – Although going to a local gym or fitness club may put you at risk for getting the coronavirus, you can safely exercise at home by doing chair exercises and using supplies in your home for strength training. Speak with your doctor about which types of exercises work best for you.
Take a break – Many of us have spent more time around people in our household like never before. Carve out some “me time” for yourself to help keep you sane.
Set goals – Set a few short- and long-term goals that you’ve always wanted to accomplish.
Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol may be used to mask what you’re feeling, it can also negatively affect your health if you are drinking more than recommended amounts. It’s better to get to the root of the issue by speaking to a professional.
Eat a balanced diet – Stress leads some to over-eating and others to not eat enough. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and reach out to local food pantries and organizations like Meals on Wheels if you need help with food security.
Learn something new – It’s never too late to learn something new.
Turn off the news – Take a break from the news and focus on something positive.
Go for a ride – Go for a drive or ask someone to take you for a ride.
Mingle RESPONSIBLY – If you can safely spend time with others, or in public spaces, do so.
Times are steadily changing, and we have entered a new norm. Try your best to find ways to adjust and stay mentally fit.
National Council on Aging Behavioral Health Webinars and additional information https://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health
AARP Article on teletherapy https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/teletherapy.html
National Crisis Text Line Mental health 741741
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 1-800-662-4357
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Behavioral Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.