Growing older can give both men and women a sense of freedom and increased happiness. With the children grown and the daily routine finished, you may feel more in control of your life than ever before.
However, the loss of loved ones, the isolation of living alone, or personal illness may take an emotional toll. Research continues to show a strong link between the body and the mind. That means that staying healthy requires paying attention to both.
Depression and anxiety
Health problems, money worries and the loss of loved ones become more common as we age. So it might seem "normal" for an older adult to feel depressed or anxious a good deal of the time, but it is not. Just like at any other age, constant worrying could be due to an anxiety disorder. Ongoing feelings of sadness or numbness could be signs of depression.
As you age, you probably hear more and more about depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. You may not know how common they are and that they are real illnesses and not signs of personal weakness. Yet, you still don't seek treatment for mental health problems because they play down or dismiss their symptoms or are embarrassed or unwilling to talk about them.
Even though you may not accept that you need help, it's important to get it. Untreated mental health problems can reduce your quality of life. The damage can be both emotional and physical. In fact, depression may be a symptom of a physical problem. People with diabetes, heart disease, and some other health problems have a higher risk of depression. Depression and other mental health problems can make it more difficult, and more costly, to treat these and other conditions. That makes it even more important to see your doctor.
Keeping up with friendships and social connections is important to your quality of life and overall well-being. Having a close friend or family member who you can easily talk with can help you to feel cared for and valued. Social support can protect you from isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Participating in social or productive activities that you enjoy may also help maintain your well-being. For example, it is common to find that older adults who participate in activities they find meaningful, such as volunteering, feel healthier and happier. Group physical activity, such as zumba or a walking group, can increase social relationships. Physical activity also boosts your physical and mental health.
Senior centers, community recreation centers, and places of worship are places to look for social groups or ways to get involved. The National Institute on Aging provides these examples of social and productive activities that you may like:
- Volunteering at a library, hospital, school, or other organization
- Joining a senior center
- Playing cards and other games with your friends
- Going to the theater, a movie, or a sporting event
- Traveling with a group of older adults, perhaps a retiree group
- Visiting friends and family
- Gardening in your backyard or at a community park
- Organizing a park clean-up through your local recreation center
- Taking a cooking class
- Singing in a choral group
- Joining a local theater troupe
- Forming or joining a book club
- Going dancing
- Taking a group exercise class
- Playing a musical instrument, learning a new instrument
- Joining a group interested in a hobby like knitting or scrapbooking
- Getting a part-time job