What is World Mental Health Day?
Every October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to promoting awareness and advocacy for mental health. Created in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, World Mental Health Day is now celebrated worldwide with support from the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Starting in 1994, each year has a theme that provides inspiration for events and education. This year’s theme is “Making Mental Health & Wellbeing for All a Global Priority,” which aims to prioritize mental health in the new-normal of life following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Importance of mental health for seniors
While mental health affects people of all ages, its significance in the lives of seniors is substantial. Over 20% of people aged 60 or older live with a mental disorder, the most common of which being dementia and depression. Health experts also claim that mental disorders are far underreported due to social stigma, leading to the belief that the amount of seniors living with mental disorders is higher than the reported figure.
Especially with seniors, mental health and physical health are closely linked; many people that experience physical health problems develop mental health conditions as well. As the body ages, the risk factors for health conditions, both physical and mental, grow. In addition, seniors experience life stressors at a higher rate than younger generations, causing isolation and distress.
Although these statistics can be concerning, many seniors also experience a higher rate of life satisfaction than in their younger years. For more information, see the blog posts Things That Get Better With Age and The Top 10 Benefits of Aging. Regardless, mental health should be prioritized as much as physical health. In support of World Mental Health Day, here are 6 tips that have been proven by experts to improve mental health.
6 Tips for improving mental health
Playing games is one of the easiest and most fun ways to improve mental health. Like any other muscle, the brain needs to be stimulated and exercised to maintain its health and strength. Playing brain games has been shown to improve cognitive abilities and boost moods. There are boatloads of types of games out there, including cross word puzzles, sudoku, chess, checkers, and dominoes, just to name a few. These games, and ones like them, can easily be found at stores, online retailers, and even most local libraries. In addition, many websites offer free online versions of these games, making access to them as easy as a click of the mouse.
There are many benefits to regular physical activity, including improving strength, preventing disease, and fighting depression. Doctors recommend that seniors get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, consisting of a mixture of cardio, strength, and flexibility training. Walking, doing chores, and gardening are all great ways to practice cardio. To increase strength, a resistance band is a safe way to work muscles. Lastly, flexibility can be improved through yoga and stretching.
*Before starting a new exercise routine, the amount and type of activity should always be discussed with a physician.
Try a new hobby
Having a hobby not only improves mental health, but it also increases overall wellbeing and reduces stress. Hobbies are incredibly diverse, ranging from creative like painting and playing an instrument, to active like hiking or playing sports. Other hobbies include reading, crocheting, knitting, birdwatching—the list is endless. There is a hobby out there for everyone, it’s just a matter of trying to find the right one.
Spending time with friends and family
Spending time with friends and family is crucial to helping mental health by decreasing loneliness and increasing social interaction. Seeing friends and family regularly improves the mood and decreases stress; playing games or practicing a new hobby together can be a great way to interact! For people who live far from their loved ones, writing letters or having a video call is a great way to stay connected.
Adopting a pet
Welcoming a new friend into the family is another mental health booster. Pets such as dogs, cats, fish, and guinea pigs can provide joy and companionship. However, each pet has different care needs, so research must be done to see what pet fits your lifestyle. For more information on how pets can increase health, see our blog Four Health Benefits of Having A Pet Companion for Seniors).
Knowing when and where to get help for mental health is the most important tip for any senior. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, contact a physician for help. Other resources include the National Council of Aging, Mental Health America, and the Crisis Text Hotline.