Stress and anxiety are potentially corrosive factors in people of any age. But when it comes to seniors and stress, there’s a particularly troublesome Catch-22: The more you stress, the more vulnerable you become to illness, because stress can dampen your immune response.
How can we help reduce stress and anxiety in seniors? One way is to address stress at its source, which may be unique to each individual — such as a physical condition, disability, personal loss, or outside factors like harsh weather or even a widespread health epidemic. It’s not always possible to eliminate sources like these. What is possible is to encourage relaxation and stress relief more broadly. Let’s look at reducing stress and anxiety in seniors from both perspectives.
How to reduce senior stress and anxiety from an identifiable source.
When an older adult is struggling against a particular source of stress and anxiety, you may be able to introduce solutions that can lessen or resolve the problem. Consider these general areas of life and how they may contribute to the stress and anxiety of an older loved one.
Overall lifestyle. What is a typical day or month like for your loved one? Is their physical environment easy to navigate, or are they struggling with obstacles like stairs, clutter, home maintenance, shopping or personal finances? The issue of whether or not to continue driving is a stress-inducing topic in many families. Are they isolated and disconnected from people and activities? A positive change in living conditions can go a long way toward reducing many of the factors that are causing their stress and anxiety.
Sense of independence. Closely tied to how and where a loved one is living is how they feel about it. Are they able to do the things they want to do? Are the activities of normal living becoming a growing source of worry and anxiety? Does their situation truly allow them to be independent? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you can help them make adjustments.
General level of health. The physical changes from growing older and the limitations they impose are another source of stress in older people. And feeling anxious only makes these problems worse. These difficulties can also introduce psychological challenges that stand in the way of an older adult’s best life. Again, introducing lifestyle changes may help correct these issues and lead to a better level of overall health.
Helping seniors reduce stress from the inside out.
Relaxation techniques seniors can practice at home can empower them to live the life they want to live despite outside pressures and limitations. If your goal is to reduce stress and anxiety in an aging loved one, you should consider introducing these stress management activities for seniors.
Yoga. With its series of postures and controlled-breathing exercises, yoga helps ease anxiety in the body and the mind. It can be adapted and modified — as with chair yoga — to accommodate nearly any individual limitation, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Hatha yoga, in particular, is a good stress reliever because of its slower pace and easier movements.
Meditation. This powerful stress reliever can instill a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit a senior’s emotional well-being and overall health. Guided meditation, deep breathing, visualization and other forms of meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time.
Exercise. Whether at home or in a more social setting, the benefits of exercise and physical activity for older adults include improving health and motivation, enhancing balance and coordination, improving sleep patterns, and more — all of which help ease stress and anxiety.
New Hobbies. This could be almost anything, starting right at home. Painting, gardening, taking photographs, experimenting with a musical instrument, online language lessons, tracing the works of a single classical composer, quilting, mastering a tablet computer, learning to play chess — anything that captures the interest of your loved one.
Being in Nature. Fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin can revitalize the spirit of an aging adult and help dissolve stress and worry.
Setting New Goals. It’s never too late to create new purpose. Dreams backed by action drive us forward at any age. Lead your loved one on an exercise in imagination by thinking through new possibilities for fun and fulfillment. Then step forward with them toward these new goals, leaving stress and anxiety behind.
Helping seniors build defense against stress and bolster their resiliency.
Life can be stressful. Especially for older adults adapting to the challenges of aging. The key is learning how to cope with it, and you can help. Create the circumstances that allow them to prioritize good sleep. Well-rested people are better at fending off illness. Make it possible for them to exercise and eat well. Daily exercise can promote feelings of well-being and boost immunity. Getting the heart rate up each day — simply by taking a walk — lowers the risk of many chronic conditions.
Querencia at Barton Creek can help as well. Our community has been named a Center for Successful Aging by the nationally renowned Masterpiece Living® initiative. The culture of wellness here offers innumerable options for senior loved ones to lead a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. You can find more helpful information about staying active at home here. And if higher levels of senior health services are ever needed, they’re available on campus as well. Querencia is here to help. Feel free to reach out to us with questions.