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  • As our loved ones grow older, we tend to worry about physical ailments, such as an increased risk for heart attacks and memory problems like dementia.
  • However, we often fail to recognize threats to their mental health—for example, the elderly often suffers from depression and anxiety.
  • These are common illnesses among the elderly for a few reasons: they are often lonely, they often feel abandoned, and they often experience severe physical pain.
  • Fortunately, you can help your older loved ones to live happier, healthier lives: first, encourage their participating in fun activities and hobbies to keep them busy.
  • Also, help to get them involved and engaged with others, as socializing is critical to our mental and emotional health at any age.
  • Finally, do your best to make them smile, laugh, and enjoy themselves; take them to a comedy show, introduce them to The Office, crack a silly joke.

We worry about our aging loved ones—parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We fear the worst, from heart attacks to memory loss to life-threatening falls. But we often forget about potential threats to their mental and emotional wellbeing, like depression and anxiety, which we need to pay closer attention to.

Depression and Anxiety in the Elderly: A Heightened Risk

When it comes to mental health, the elderly often struggles with two mental illnesses, which are common among other demographics as well: depression and anxiety. Dr. Sidney Cohen, a psychologist, explains where exactly these illnesses stem from when it comes to this population:

“Depression and anxiety are certainly two common clinical problems experienced by this population. The depression can especially stem from feelings of loneliness, frustration, and discouragement over increasing physical limitations, and grieving the loss of significant loved ones. The anxiety can especially surround fear of dying, being abandoned, and/or excessive physical pain and discomfort. And in some instances, the issue of dementia and signs of Alzheimer’s can certainly be quite psychologically distressing as well.”

3 Tips for Helping Your Aging Loved Ones Live Happier

The above isn’t meant to scare you but make you aware of your older loved ones’ risk of developing depression and anxiety. Fortunately, you can help your elders prevent or manage these illnesses.

“The key is to encourage and reinforce the elderly individual’s strengths and resources, particularly in regard to what is in their control to enjoy their lives as best as possible,” Cohen explains. “This can include encouraging participation in hobbies, group/social activities, and anything the person finds funny enough to get a good laugh about.” Let’s break down and clearly define these action tips:

1. Encourage their participation in fun activities and hobbies.

What activities is your loved one fond of? What are some beloved hobbies from their past? Maybe they used to play the piano for all of their dinner guests, or you’d sit side-by-side piecing together puzzles on your visits. Remind them of their favorite pastimes and encourage them to either pick an old hobby up again or find a new one. Introduce them to your favorite book series, teach them how to cross-stitch, gift them some paint and a few canvases. And see if any magic happens.

2. Get them involved in group/social activities.

Our social networks play an important role in our mental wellbeing. Socializing with others has proven to boost mood both during and after the social interaction. Additionally, having a supportive group of people to consult and connect with is vital to our health. Make sure the elderly in your life are involved with social activities and do your best to call them often to provide further support and social reinforcement.

3. Make them laugh.

Finally, the simplest tip of all: do what you can to brighten their day and make them laugh. This might involve taking them to a comedy show, putting on something funny like The Office, or simply telling a few lighthearted jokes yourself. Whatever it takes to bring a smile to their face. They’ll experience those benefits of socializing as well as those that come with laughing.

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

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