Older Adult Mental Health
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, including as we age.
Many older adults are at risk for mental health problems. But this does not mean that mental health problems are a normal part of aging. Studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, even though they may have more illnesses or physical problems.
Sometimes, however, important life changes can make you feel uneasy, stressed, and sad. These changes could include the death of a loved one, retirement, or dealing with a serious illness. Many older adults will eventually adjust to the changes. But some people will have more trouble adjusting. This can put them at risk for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
It's important to recognize and treat mental disorders in older adults. These disorders don't just cause mental suffering. They can also make it harder for you to manage other health problems. This is especially true if those health problems are chronic.
Some of the warning signs of mental disorders in older adults include:
- Changes in mood or energy level
- A change in your eating or sleeping habits
- Withdrawing from the people and activities you enjoy
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling sadness or hopelessness
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Having thoughts and memories that you can't get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
If you think that you may have a mental health problem, get help. Talk therapy and/or medicines can treat mental disorders. If you don't know where to start, contact your primary care provider.
Exercise for Older Adults
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. There are four main types and each type is different. Doing them all will give you more benefits.:
- Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, and biking are examples.
- Strength exercises make your muscles stronger. Lifting weights or using a resistance band can build strength.
- Balance exercises help prevent falls
- Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber
If you have not been active, you can start slowly and work up to your goal. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health. Check with your health care provider on what is right for you.
NIH: National Institute on Aging
Nutrition for Older Adults
What is nutrition and why is it important for older adults?
Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet so your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Nutrients are substances in foods that our bodies need so they can function and grow. They include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age. It gives you energy and can help you control your weight. It may also help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
But as you age, your body and life change, and so does what you need to stay healthy. For example, you may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. Some older adults need more protein.
What can make it harder for me to eat healthy as I age?
Some changes that can happen as you age can make it harder for you to eat healthy. These include changes in your:
- Home life, such as suddenly living alone or having trouble getting around
- Health, which can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself
- Medicines, which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or take away your appetite
- Income, which means that you may not have as much money for food
- Sense of smell and taste
- Problems chewing or swallowing your food
How can I eat healthy as I age?
To stay healthy as you age, you should:
- Eat foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories, such as
- Fruits and vegetables (choose different types with bright colors)
- Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that has added vitamin D and calcium
- Seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
- Beans, nuts, and seeds
- Avoid empty calories. These are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol.
- Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat. You especially want to try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Trans fats are processed fats in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. You may find them in some store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.
- Drink enough liquids, so you don't get dehydrated. Some people lose their sense of thirst as they age. And certain medicines might make it even more important to have plenty of fluids.
- Be physically active. If you have started losing your appetite, exercising may help you to feel hungrier.
What can I do if I am having trouble eating healthy?
Sometimes health issues or other problems can make it hard to eat healthy. Here are some tips that might help:
- If you are tired of eating alone, try organizing some potluck meals or cooking with a friend. You can also look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility.
- If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems
- If you are having trouble swallowing, try drinking plenty of liquids with your meal. If that does not help, check with your health care provider. A health condition or medicine could be causing the problem.
- If you're having trouble smelling and tasting your food, try adding color and texture to make your food more interesting
- If you aren't eating enough, add some healthy snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories
- If an illness is making it harder for you to cook or feed yourself, check with your health care provider. He or she may recommend an occupational therapist, who can help you find ways to make it easier.
NIH: National Institute on Aging
Older Adult Health
People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there's no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. You need to know what to expect. Some changes may just be part of normal aging, while others may be a warning sign of a medical problem. It is important to know the difference, and to let your health care provider know if you have any concerns.
Having a healthy lifestyle can help you to deal with normal aging changes and make the most of your life. This includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and making mental health a priority.
What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medicines to prevent pain during surgery and other procedures. These medicines are called anesthetics. They may be given by injection, inhalation, topical lotion, spray, eye drops, or skin patch. They cause you to have a loss of feeling or awareness.
What is anesthesia used for?
Anesthesia may be used in minor procedures, such as filling a tooth. It could be used during childbirth or procedures such as colonoscopies. And it is used during minor and major surgeries.
In some cases, a dentist, nurse, or doctor may give you an anesthetic. In other cases, you may need an anesthesiologist. This is a doctor who specializes in giving anesthesia.
What are the types of anesthesia?
There are several different types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body. It might be used on a tooth that needs to be pulled or on a small area around a wound that needs stitches. You are awake and alert during local anesthesia.
- Regional anesthesia is used for larger areas of the body such as an arm, a leg, or everything below the waist. You may be awake during the procedure, or you may be given sedation. Regional anesthesia may be used during childbirth, a Cesarean section (C-section), or minor surgeries.
- General anesthesia affects the whole body. It makes you unconscious and unable to move. It is used during major surgeries, such as heart surgery, brain surgery, back surgery, and organ transplants.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
Anesthesia is generally safe. But there can be risks, especially with general anesthesia, including:
- Heart rhythm or breathing problems
- An allergic reaction to the anesthesia
- Delirium after general anesthesia. Delirium makes people confused. They may be unclear about what is happening to them. Some people over the age of 60 have delirium for several days after surgery. It can also happen to children when they first wake up from anesthesia.
- Awareness when someone is under general anesthesia. This usually means that the person hears sounds. But sometimes they can feel pain. This is rare.