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How to look after your mental health in later life

Posted on 10/05/2017

Mental Health Awareness Week has turned a spotlight on mental health in the UK. This year’s focus is based around the question of ‘Surviving or Thriving?’. Data collected by the Mental Health Foundation shows that 4 in 10 people say that they have experienced depression and a quarter have had panic attacks. The occurrence of mental health conditions increases among people who are living alone, which can affect the older generation, who may have lost a partner or live far away from family members.

The good news is that people over the age of 55 are reported to be the most likely to take positive steps to help themselves deal with everyday life and its challenges, and this age group in general experiences better mental health than average. 

Here are our top tips for looking after your mental health in later life: 

Prepare for big changes

When approaching retirement age, it is time to think about how this will affect and change your daily life. Some people can feel ‘lost’ without the daily routine of work, so it’s good to have a plan in place on how you wish to spend your retirement. Maybe you would like to volunteer, take up a new hobby, visit places, help with childcare for family members, work in the garden… whatever it is, a new focus can help with the shift from working to retirement. Many people semi-retire as a stepping stone to help adapt.

Spend time with family and friends

Loneliness is one of the biggest causes of mental health issues. It’s important to see other people and interact. Make time to see family members and friends on a regular basis. If there is no one local to you, then think about going to social groups or classes where you can make new friends and build a social circle.

Get outside

The fresh air can do the world of good for our mental health. Try to get outside every day, whether it’s a walk to the shops, visiting a friend or a cup of tea in the garden. If getting outside gets more difficult in later life, look into services that offer trips, shopping excursions or befriending to give you a helping hand.  

Eat well

Eating healthily can have a great impact on mental health. Make sure that your diet is filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish, good fats, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and dairy. Drink plenty of water and other fluids, and try to keep sugary snacks to a minimum. This will also have huge benefits for your physical health and can help to prevent some later-life ailments. Meal-delivery services can ensure that you continue to eat well if you find cooking difficult.

Have hobbies and interests

Take up or continue a hobby, as this will keep your brain sharp. This can be anything from knitting and crossword puzzles, to dancing and gardening. Doing things that you enjoy regularly gives you joy and lifts your spirits. Now is also a good time to learn a new skill, so think about anything that you would like to learn and take the first step. This can help to ward off mental illnesses, as well as give you the chance to meet new people.

Prioritise good sleep

Sleep is often neglected in our busy lives, but getting enough sleep helps us to be both physically and emotionally well. Make sure that you have a good sleep environment, that you go to bed and get up at roughly the same times every day, and that you aim for 7-8 hours’ sleep. You should feel rested and energetic when you are getting enough sleep.

Find out more about protecting your mental health in later life on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

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