The past few years have been difficult for many, and senior Australians are no exception. It is especially important for all of us, including seniors, to include relaxation and mindfulness activities into our day to maintain a calm mind when life becomes stressful. So how can older adults reduce their risk factors for stress and anxiety and increase happiness and connection? Let’s take a look at some tips to cultivate a positive outlook and maintain a quality of life.
One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is to cultivate a regular practice of one or more relaxation techniques that suit your daily routine. A regular relaxation practice can assist in managing some of the factors that cause stress, such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, and disrupted sleep. Mindfulness, slow breathing, and guided meditation practices encourage focusing the attention on a single idea – for example, the sound of your breathing, a particular sensation, or a thought or mantra – to distract the mind from thoughts that increase anxiety. The benefits of these techniques include that they can be done anywhere and don’t require any special equipment, although there are many videos and apps that can be used when just starting out or to help maintain your practice.
Engage the senses
Stimulating the senses can provide multiple health benefits, including reducing pain, stress and anxiety, particularly in older adults. A lack of connective touch, in particular, can increase feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Giving the five senses a workout can ease stress and depressive symptoms, forge connections with others and bring back past positive experiences. Massage and aromatherapy are examples of ways that touch and smell can be harnessed to reduce negative feelings. Similarly, playing a much-loved piece of music, spraying a favourite scent, cooking a dish with an alluring aroma, or making time to cuddle a pet can all contribute to generating a more positive outlook throughout the day, and keeping stress at bay.
Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most important protective factors against stress and anxiety. However, this doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon or swim the English Channel before breakfast. Building gentle exercise, such as gardening or walking into your day, can reap many of the same benefits. Or think outside the box – dance in the loungeroom to a few favourite tunes or play with the grandkids! For older adults with limited mobility, exercises such as yoga, gentle weights and even boxing and dancing can be modified for someone seated in a chair, and there are many free classes and tutorials online to show you how it’s done. Whatever the style, moving your body is key to keeping the mind happy and healthy.
Make the connection
Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for stress and anxiety and are often experienced by older people. While finding ways to interact socially may seem difficult, there are many ways to reach out and make a connection with people around you and increase your mental well-being at the same time. Start where you are and try to wave or say hello to those you see every day. Cultivating a feeling of neighbourliness with those nearby enhances feelings of security, reducing anxiety about the outside world. Make the effort to participate in activities that are accessible to you – pick up an old hobby, accept that invitation, or reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. If it’s not possible to do this in person, connect by writing a letter, making a phone call, or using new technologies such as video chat to reach out.
Seek help and support
While all of these activities can assist in reducing stress and feelings of anxiety and depression, it is important to note that it is okay to acknowledge these feelings and seek support when you are feeling low. Many older adults have experienced stress and anxiety at some time or another, and there is no shame in asking for help or simply admitting that your outlook is not as positive as it could be. Remember, stress and anxiety are able to be treated, provided you reach out for support.
Join a supportive TriCare Community
Our Retirement Communities provide a wide range of amenities and opportunities for our residents to socialise with like-minded people. The Residents Committee organises activities and events for everyone to join in, get active and have fun.
For those needing clinical care, our Aged Care Residences provides services to nurture residents in each area. The lifestyle program includes daily activities to improve our residents’ physical and emotional wellbeing from the moment they move in.
From daily social and physical activities to professional health care onsite, to caring staff that look out for each individual, we are committed to ensuring our residents live their best possible lives.