Stress at any age isn’t a good thing but for seniors, whose tolerance for it might be even less, it can lead to physical and mental health issues:
“Normally when we’re stressed, our brains get flooded with stress hormones, the midbrain takes over, and the front of the brain—which controls concentration, attention and decision-making—works less well. Stress hormones in the brain can also contribute to short-term memory problems that are unrelated to dementia or age-related memory loss. Restorative sleep helps to flush stress hormones from the brain. However, many older adults have sleep problems. Stress may make it more difficult to fall back asleep, and the inability to clear these stress hormones from the brain during sleep means that the cognitive effects of stress can worsen over time.” (Source)
Working with seniors, it’s important to remember that they are individuals with their own free will, and their own preferences as to what they enjoy and what they don’t. Imposing some sort of ‘senior style’ on them is wholly inappropriate and a good caregiver would never do that. In fact, an over exuberant push to ‘relax’, depending on the activities proposed, could end up creating stress for a senior.
So factoring in that everyone has their own preferences and one person’s relaxation could be another person’s nightmare, here are some activities that might be good ways to help a senior relax and limit their exposure to stress.
If you are a stressed out senior, or know one…
The first and best thing to do is to figure out what is stressing you out and then work proactively to alleviate it if you can. For example, financial stress is a concern, as we all watch the stock market jump all over the place, and never more so for someone whose earning days are behind them. There is little that can be done to correct this except to ensure that they have as much control over the issue as possible, and as much information as they need to feel reassured about their own circumstances.
For many seniors, heightened fear and anxiety is simply a reality. Things that didn’t bother them twenty years ago have suddenly taken on monumental proportions in their minds.
“A big part of stress management focuses on triggering the opposite of the stress response: the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones.” (Same source as above)
A checkup might be in order to rule out any physical issues that could be exacerbating the stress or anxiety.
How do you initiate a relaxation response?
Yoga or tai chi classes are optimal exercise based methods that suit seniors who may have reduced mobility or strength. Both activities require you to focus your energy and concentration on what you are doing, including your breathing. Meditation and other deep breathing exercises can also help.
Talking about exercise…
Exercise, in any form, releases endorphins—the happy hormone—into your body and brain. You feel better if you get moving. So whether that’s a walk around the neighborhood or the mall, a fun low-impact exercise class focusing on strength and flexibility or even doing some simple stretches at home, moving your body helps!
In addition, staying active keeps your body and mind strong, which will go a long way to helping you cope with anything that comes along.
Create some social…
Another reason seniors tend to get stressed is when they experience social isolation. Perhaps a lot of their friends have moved away or are experiencing mobility issues. Perhaps some are ill. It can be difficult to navigate the waters of these latter years, with all the changes you or your loved one might be experiencing personally and in among friend groups.
Perhaps it’s time to join a new group! Focus in on activities that are pleasing and find a group of like minded individuals. For example, if you are the bookish type, a book club or other group might have formed through the local library. Check it out! If you’re into cooking, join a class or even host one! Teach your family recipes to the next generation!
Just being with other people who have similar interests can do wonders for feeling relaxed, included, and active. Even if you aren’t a ‘social’ person, just being around other people can make a difference. Take a class in something you’re interested in: not to make new friends, but just to be among kindred spirits!
Engage in the world…
You’re never too old to open up some new horizons in your world: joining a tour group for a vacation or taking some classes at a community college can put you right back in the thick of ‘action’. For many seniors, retirement creates a sense that they lack purpose. Having a reason to get up every single day, whether that’s to spend time with the grandkids or learn a new language, it’s all in the aim of building as much of a beautiful, fun, and enjoyable life as you can, through all stages of it.
If you or an aging loved one are considering in-home senior care, please call the compassionate, caring staff at Mothers Helping Hands Home Care. Call Today! 470-260-4137