In the last few decades, mental health has moved out of the shadows and into the public eye. However, many seniors have been left out of the conversation. Mental health issues are common among older adults, but they’re woefully under-addressed. This is due, in part, to a lack of awareness about the root causes of senior stress, both by doctors, younger people, and seniors themselves.
Gaining a more thorough understanding of what’s causing your stress can help you develop positive coping tools to better enjoy your golden years. No one deserves to live in a state of constant anxiety or depression. Here are some common stressors seniors face, as well as a few resources that can make things easier:
Death and the Fear of the Unknown
When we’re young, most of us fear death the way we fear sharks or erupting volcanoes: technically a threat, but not exactly a pressing concern. As we get older, however, mortality starts to snowball into a pressing matter. Unfortunately, the taboos surrounding death make it almost impossible to deal with this fear in a healthy, manageable way. Our first impulse is to ignore our mortality, but the opposite is much more effective.
Take the Death Cafe, for example. This is a worldwide organization focused on the job of reducing the taboos around death. Local chapters hold monthly or weekly meetings where anyone is welcome to share their fears, thoughts, anxieties - and even joys - about death and dying. There’s also the Coffin Club, a group that encourages its members to build and decorate their own coffins as a form of expression and celebration.
These are great methods for facing a fear of death, but they’re not the only way. Something as simple as planning your funeral or picking up a burial insurance policy can be surprisingly therapeutic. It’s also a good way to mitigate any stress you might have about being a burden on your loved ones after you’ve passed. Funerals can easily cost more than $9,000; investing in a policy will take that cost off your family’s shoulders.
Health, Mobility, and Independence
Another concern plaguing many older adults is managing age-related health declines they might face. For many, the health issues themselves are not the most anxiety-inducing part: It’s the potential loss of independence that may come with it. We all yearn to be as self-sufficient as possible, but it’s a simple fact that many of us will come to need more help as we age. Knowing it’s a possibility, however, does not make it any easier prospect to consider. What can make it easier to deal with is being proactive and coming up with a plan in advance for that possibility.
For example, you can plan to use a senior care service like Seniors Helping Seniors. This organization connects you with care-providing seniors who can help with light daily tasks or in-home services. On the other hand, if you anticipate being less independent, consider taking a tour of assisted living facilities in your area. Doing this while you’re healthy - and when there’s no pressure to actually choose one - is a great move. It allows you to objectively evaluate the options, and it makes the process substantially less stressful should you ever actually need it. Plus, taking tours can help to dispel any myths you might unknowingly believe about assisted living.
A Chemical Imbalance
Finally, many seniors experience stress that goes above and beyond the norm. In many of these cases, they’re actually dealing with an anxiety disorder. Although the standard stress-reduction techniques many of us turn to can certainly help reduce the intensity of these disorders, some seniors may need more support.
If you think this might be you, reach out to your doctor and ask for an anxiety screening. They can rule out causes such as nutrient deficiencies, and they help you explore therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
While aging can be fraught with concerns as we get older, there’s no shame in getting the help you need. After all, you deserve a retirement you can enjoy to the fullest. Don’t let age-related stressors stand in your way.