Seniors and older adults are usually retired from work and aren’t as active as they once were in their younger years, but that doesn’t mean they are any less susceptible to everyday stress. Let’s learn a little bit more about how stress affects the elderly community and how to better manage it before it becomes a health issue.
Why Stress is Harmful to Seniors
Stress has effects on both the body and mind, and many of us have experienced stress so great that we have become physically ill. Stress is a known suppressor of the immune system, and when combined with other mental or physical diseases or illnesses that seniors are susceptible to, it can greatly increase the likelihood of sickness. Too much stress can also cause the body to recover from an illness at a much slower pace than normal. Thus, it makes it harder for older adults to fight and detect disease. When we get older, our mental abilities slow and it is a natural part of life for people to experience cognitive decline as they age. Added stress can accelerate this decline greatly. Living away from home or family in an assisted living facility can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness for seniors. They tend to sometimes feel a loss of independence and a lack of purpose and their quality of life declines if they are not engaging regularly in some sort of mental or physical activity on a regular basis.
How to Reduce Stress
The first step seniors and their caregivers should take in reducing stress is recognizing the signs and symptoms. Some common indicators of stress in an elderly person are: excessive fatigue or insomnia, irritability, headaches, negative feelings and attitudes, poor concentration, shortness of breath, and unnecessary worrying. Older adults can manage stress in a number of ways. Taking care of themselves, or making sure their caregivers are taking proper care of them, should be a number one priority. If they are physically able, they should exercise regularly and at the very least be taking walks around their home or assisted living facility as often as possible to reduce feelings of isolation. Eating a balanced diet can also do wonders for a body riddled with stress. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities or interesting hobbies is another way seniors can reduce stress and add positive interactions to their lives. Learning relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga can also help strengthen both the mind and body.