Lifestyle tips for promoting mental wellness among seniors and their children - Hindustan Times

Lifestyle tips for promoting mental wellness among seniors and their children

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 25, 2024 01:28 PM IST

Want seniors to enjoy a fulfilling life? Here's how their families can experience reduced stress and anxiety, enjoy balanced and positive caregiving experience

All people need personal identity and control, dignity, purposeful life and a sense of belonging for their mental well being but as people age, this becomes a challenge where the challenges coupled with declining physical health, loss of independence and social isolation, can take a further toll on their emotional well-being. By 2026 more than 180 million people in India will be above the age of 60 and of these around one in five are likely to have mental health problems like anxiety, depression or cognitive decline.

Lifestyle tips for promoting mental wellness among seniors and their children (Image by Freepik)
Lifestyle tips for promoting mental wellness among seniors and their children (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Achal Bhagat, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and Chairperson at Saarthak, shared, “The mental healthcare systems in India are ill prepared for this rise in number of people who will need support. So the impact of a senior's mental health is also extend to their loved ones, especially their children who often serve as caregivers. However, with some lifestyle modifications, seniors and their loved ones can promote mental wellness and improve their overall quality of life.”

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He suggested -

  1. Stay Connected: Loneliness and social isolation can significantly impact mental well-being, especially for older adults. Encouraging seniors to participate in community activities, join support groups or visits with family and friends can foster a sense of belonging and purpose.
  2. Participate in Meaningful Activities: Pursuing hobbies, learning new skills, or volunteering can provide a sense of accomplishment and cognitive stimulation. It can help seniors identify activities they enjoy, such as gardening, reading, crafting, or participating in educational courses or workshops.
  3. Continue Physical Activity: Regular exercise has numerous benefits for mental health, including reducing stress, improving mood, and enhancing cognitive function. Engage in low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or gentle yoga as suggested by healthcare professional.
  4. Maintain a Balanced Diet: A nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively impact mental well-being. As one ages there is also a loss of muscle mass. Both a healthy diet and exercise can help people continue to be active. Encourage seniors and their caregivers to plan and prepare healthy meals together, creating a social and enjoyable experience.
  5. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation: Techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle stretching can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  6. Seek Professional Support: If one experiences persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, forgetfulness or other mental health concerns, it's essential to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can make a significant difference in managing mental health conditions.

Sama Beg, Chief Product Officer at Emoha, said, “In today's fast-paced world, many families juggle multiple responsibilities. Children eager to pursue their careers often find themselves navigating the dual roles of work and caring for aging parents. This situation can create a mental tightrope walk, with concerns about well-being for both generations. While supporting career aspirations is crucial, prioritising mental health for both children and their parents is essential for long-term happiness and success. By providing a support system that addresses the needs of both working adults and their aging parents, elder care services can alleviate stress and create a more balanced and fulfilling journey for the entire family. This allows adult children to focus on their careers with peace of mind, knowing their parents are receiving quality care and remaining engaged in life.”

She highlighted the challenges and support for seniors -

  • Isolation and Loneliness: Social connections are vital for mental well-being. Seniors may experience isolation due to retirement, mobility limitations, or loss of loved ones. Caregivers provide companionship, engage in conversations, and facilitate social interaction, reducing feelings of loneliness and boosting mood.
  • Dementia and Cognitive Decline: Dementia can be a source of anxiety for seniors. Trained caregivers understand the stages of dementia and can provide support through structured routines, and engaging activities that promote cognitive stimulation. This not only helps maintain cognitive function but also fosters a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
  • Maintaining Activity Levels: Staying active is crucial for both physical and mental health. Elder care can assist with daily tasks, allowing seniors to dedicate time to hobbies, exercise classes, or outings. This promotes a sense of independence and control over their lives, contributing to improved mental well-being.

Supporting Adult Children

Sama Beg said, “Caring for an aging parent can be a stressful experience for adult children. Balancing work, family commitments, and the needs of a senior can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and even resentment.” She recommended ways through which professional eldercare support can provide support systems that benefit both generations -

  • Peace of Mind: Taking care of an aging parent is a complex science and difficult to navigate without expert support. Knowing their loved ones are receiving professional care by experts allows adult children to focus on their own lives and careers without constant worry.
  • Reduced Stress: Elder support services are personalized, ensuring seniors receive the specific assistance they need. This alleviates the burden on adult children, allowing them to spend quality time with their parents with less stress and anxiety.
  • Open Communication: Elder care providers maintain clear communication with families, providing regular updates and involving them in care decisions. This fosters trust and a sense of partnership, contributing to a more positive caregiving experience.

Building a Strong Foundation for Mental Wellness

By taking a holistic approach, elder care providers support the mental well-being of both seniors and their families. Sama Beg revealed some key aspects of elder care services that promote positive mental health -

  • Personalized Care Plans: Create customized care plans that cater to individual needs, fostering a sense of control and purpose for seniors.
  • Meaningful Activities: Encourage participation of elderly in activities that are enjoyable and stimulating, promoting cognitive function and social interaction.
  • Socialization and Connection: Facilitate opportunities for social interaction, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Care Coordination: Assistance with coordinating care and services – from emergency support, to doctor’s appointments, lab tests, diagnostics and more.

Investing in senior care is an investment in the mental well-being of both generations. By providing professional support, companionship and a stimulating environment, elder care empowers seniors to live a fulfilling life while reducing stress and anxiety for their families.

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