A better life for older adults – Mail and Guardian

Mental health is just as important in one’s senior years as it is at any other stage of life, and older adults can be just as susceptible to mental health difficulties as anyone else. The events of the past two years have highlighted the challenges that we all can face in this regard, irrespective of our age.

Much of the personal development advice one reads these days is dedicated to the idea of designing a life of balance and self-care, in the knowledge that prevention is generally better than cure. In our communities, every day we see how it is possible for seniors to live a full life by taking good care of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of their lives.

While we believe that the best way to achieve this balance as one gets older is to live in an environment that provides the right support, there are steps that every senior (and their families or carers) can take to look after their mental health.

Have a good routine

There are many factors in our current environment which can affect the structure of our days – ranging from lockdowns and self-isolation to less pandemic-related factors such as retirement or a move. Personal routines which include planned time for exercise, socialising, connecting with family, participating in hobbies or other meaningful activities make a great difference to the quality of one’s life and contribute to overall better mental health.

Have a sense of purpose and connection

Feeling connected to others around us and having a sense of purpose in life has immense value. It is often important for seniors to replace the sense of purpose and identity that they had in their working and parenting lives with something new. Getting more involved with one’s community or a good cause can be a way to achieve this. Some people use the time to become more involved with their families, helping out with grandchildren, for example.

Including social connection time as part of one’s routine also has value, as people feel part of a social group and have a sense that they will be missed if they aren’t there. Once again, as people’s life circumstances change, these opportunities may no longer be there. Being part of an active and vibrant senior living community can make a big difference.

Maintain your physical health and fitness

We know all too well that a healthy body and a healthy mind are connected. While getting older can come with challenges, continuing care retirement communities are able to support seniors in looking after their physical health and fitness. Conducting regular health and wellness screenings can ensure that any causes for concern are identified and addressed early while getting involved in exercise and wellness programmes can also help residents to live as well as possible.

Have a good support base

At any stage of life, humans need to feel that they have support and care as they navigate life’s challenges. Maintaining contact with friends and family is obviously ideal under any circumstances, but many seniors find themselves with diminishing options as family members or friends move away or as their life circumstances change. The benefit of continuing care retirement communities is that people forge new friendships within the circles of residents as they connect over shared interests or activities. All this creates a more solid support base around each individual than they might otherwise have had.

Getting older doesn’t mean that one has to live a diminished life. A well-managed setting with professional care, a holistic focus and a true interest in every individual, will ensure that every person can live the fullest life possible.