Stress and Aging
While it may seem like seniors should be living a carefree retirement full of travel and fun, that is definitely not always the case. Stress can stem from myriad sources as you age including:
Health problems – 4 out of 5 adults over 50 currently live with at least one chronic illness, making health issues a primary source of stress. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease often top the list, but the prevalence of age-related conditions like Parkinson’s and dementia is worth noting as well. Health problems contribute to anxiety, social isolation, and financial stress among other things.
Financial burdens – in addition to ever-growing costs of living, the reality of being on a fixed income (i.e. social security, retirement) and rising healthcare costs places a ton of financial stress on seniors. Aging in place becomes more and more attractive, especially from a monetary perspective but can be difficult budget-wise, especially when private home caregivers are needed.
Caregiving – many seniors actually provide some type of care for a spouse or aging family member which comes with its own array of stressors from being overworked, financially burdened, and physical and mentally strained.
Hearing loss – it’s not just the loss of hearing but the associated shift in interaction with others that contributes to senior stress. Over 30% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss and research shows that those who do not use hearing assistive devices have much higher rates of psychosocial disorders.
Loss of independence – when a senior’s own sense of autonomy and self-reliance suffers, stress and anxiety can quickly set in. No longer being able to drive, relying on family member’s for assistance, having to move to an assisted living facility . . . losing independence often deals a blow to confidence levels and a senior’s sense of purpose.
Cognitive decline – many age-related conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s result in a cognitive degeneration that can affect skills like memory, problem-solving, decision-making, and visual perception. It’s natural for seniors with cognitive decline to feel frustrated, anxious, confused, irritable, and stressed.
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The Health Impacts of Stress
While stress may seem to many like a fleeting emotional concern with no long-term side effects, research has actually shown it has very deep and long-lasting impacts on a person’s health. Chronic stress negatively affects the body’s inflammatory and immune responses and is even thought to contribute to degenerative diseases.
Common symptoms of chronic stress include:
Back and neck pain
Abuse of substances like alcohol and drugs
Dramatic change in weight
Depression and anxiety
Feeling easily angered or irritated
Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
Stress Relief Tips for Seniors
While aging is inevitable, suffering from chronic stress doesn’t have to be. Don’t miss these stress-busting tips for seniors:
Establish a daily schedule – so much stress can stem from the unexpected. When it comes to limiting stress levels on a day to day basis, establishing a daily routine can help. A fixed schedule for the day that includes set times for waking, eating, taking medicine, exercising, and so forth can provide structure to your life, help you better manage your time, and equip you with the tools to handle surprises.
Take advantage of your age – being a senior does have its benefits so make sure that you are not missing out. Deals for older adults aged fifty-five and above include discounts on everything from travel to restaurants, groceries, fitness programs, entertainment, health supplies, delivery services and more. Saving money can be just the thing you need to alleviate some financial stress and bring a smile to your face.
Stay active – low-impact exercise for seniors, like yoga, cycling, swimming, hiking, and dancing, has been shown to both ward off unhealthy weight gain as well as lower risk for multiple diseases from stroke to diabetes to dementia and even some cancers. Routine fitness also stimulates the body’s production of feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin which can help combat the effects of stress.
Prioritize social connections – interacting with others on a social level is a must for seniors who want to limit their stress and boost their own health outcomes. Exercising with your spouse, going out with friends, video chatting with long-distance family members . . . any combination of social engagement with other real, live human beings has been shown to strengthen cognitive defenses and combat stress and depression.
Seek out local resources – whether you are a senior living on your own or a caregiver to a loved one, find local resources that can support your daily living. Check with area nonprofits about subsidizing the cost of home upgrades (like wheelchair ramps) or find out if your local council on aging or other senior-focused group offers lending programs or respite services.