6 ways for seniors to boost psychological health and well-being
Although nearly 80% of older Canadians* report good psychological health, says Statistics Canada, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety affect many older adults and are often overlooked. 

Addressing and treating these conditions–or acting early to prevent them–reduces emotional suffering, improves physical health, lessens disability and results in better quality of life* for older adults and their families, says the American Psychological Association (APA).

Some transitions*and issues that typically occur later in life such as physical health problems, caring for a spouse with dementia, grieving the death of a loved one* and reduced independence and mobility can result in depression or anxiety, according to APA and the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH). 

Providing strong social and psychological supports* to help seniors cope better with these transitions can prevent and treat mental health problems, advises Mood Disorders Society of Canada. 

Here are six ways to improve psychological health for seniors:

1. Be physically active each day. Doing physical activity for 30 minutes three to five times a week*—whether it’s walking, gardening or swimming— improves mood and reduces anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins and taking your mind off worries, says Mayo Clinic.

2. Calm your mind and body. Yoga, mindful meditation* and breathing exercises* can ease anxiety and depression, according to American Family Physician and Toronto’s CAMH.

3. Build social supports. Dealing with social isolation by getting support from family, friends, a self-help group or your community* can be very helpful in overcoming depression, advises Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

4. Join a community-based life skills program. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offers its eight-session “Living Life to the Full” workshops* across the country. A pilot evaluation of Ontario workshops showed older participants reduced their anxiety and depression and improved quality of life.

5. Help others, help yourself. People who volunteer report lower levels of depression and increased life satisfaction,* reported a BMC Public Health study.

6. Try counselling or talk therapy. Individual or family counselling* from a trained professional, such as a social worker, psychologist, physician, nurse or psychiatrist, helps treat depression, the most common mental health problem in older adults, advises CCSMH.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. Benefits Canada. “Canadians have good mental health.” (2014), online: https://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-wellness/canadians-have-good-mental-health-56910 
2. American Psychological Association. Psychology and Again. online: https://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/aging.pdf
3. Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health. Depression in Older Adults: A guide for seniors and their families. (2009), online: https://ccsmh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ccsmh_depressionBooklet.pdf 
4. Mood Disorders Society of Canada. Depression in Elderly. online: https://ccsmh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ccsmh_depressionBooklet.pdf
5. Mayo Clinic. “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms.” (2017), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495 
6. Saeed, Atezaz; Antonacci, Diana J., Bloch, Richard M. “Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation for Depressive and Anxiety Disorders.” (2010), online: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0415/p981.html 
7. Camh. “Anxiety in Older Adults.” Online: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/guides-and-publications/anxiety-in-older-adults 
8. Canadian Mental Health Association. “Living Life to the Full” online: https://ontario.cmha.ca/programs-services/living-life-to-the-full/ 
9. Wood, Janice. “Volunteering Can Improve Mental Health, Extend Life.” (2018),  online: https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/23/volunteering-can-improve-mental-health-help-you-live-longer/58787.html