Michigan Association of Health Plans

3 Ways seniors can improve mental health

This story appeared in Priority Health’s ThinkHealth blog. Read more here

Mental health is an essential part of our overall health and well-being, particularly as we age. The CDC estimates 20% of people age 55 years or older experiences some type of mental health concern including anxiety, severe cognitive impairment or depression.

Here are three steps you can take to support your mental health as you age:

Exercise your body

Regular exercise, such as walking, water aerobics or stretching can improve the amount and quality of your sleep which, in turn, can help you control stress and anxiety.

Exercise also stimulates the production of brain chemicals that ward off depression and anxiety, and increases blood flow to the brain which can improve memory and reduce symptoms of dementia.

Join a gym or take advantage of free options such as a Priority Health Fitness Court®. Fitness courts are located in many Michigan communities and are a great way to keep moving as you age.

Exercise your brain

Mental exercise is a term for anything that engages your brain: puzzles, crafts, music, etc. When done on a regular basis, these activities help people think faster, focus better and remember more, and lead to a release of those same brain chemicals that ward off depression and anxiety.

Another option is to try online mental exercises, such as those offered by BrainHQ. These convenient, game-like activities can be done from a computer, phone or tablet, and give users the same cognitive and mental health benefits.

Stay connected

Research shows that loneliness in older people can. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with family and friends via email, text, social media, video calling, etc.

If you prefer face-to-face interaction, try volunteering, joining a social group or taking a class. These activities can provide a sense of belonging and purpose, increasing both happiness and longevity.

If you need additional help to stay on top of feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety, an online support tool like myStrength could help. myStrength provides evidence-based activities, tools and resources that can be used on your own or with a wellness coach to support your mental health. It’s one more way you can make mental health a priority as you age.

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