April is Stress Awareness Month. Most of us see and feel stress but studies have shown how stress plays a larger role among the elderly when it comes to our cognitive abilities. There is increasing evidence of a connection between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s, as well as cognitive symptoms that stem from other problems like depression, which is closely related to stress.
A recent article entitled Senior Safety and Health suggested that loved ones and caregivers should talk with seniors frequently about their emotions to correctly understand their condition.
The Senior Safety and Health study noted some of the cognitive signs of stress as a person ages.
- Memory problems, such as forgetting names, places, or things typically remembered easily
- Poor concentration
- Reduced judgment, such as unnecessary spending when living on a small budget
The article notes that there are strategies to help reduce stress in seniors. In particular, there are ways to create less stressful, more relaxing surroundings to ease stressful feelings and give peace of mind. Some of the suggestions in the Safety study include the following:
Improve Peace of Mind
Decorating with colorful items
Adding personal touches like framed pictures
Consider spring cleaning because a tidy, bright, welcoming, and organized room eases stressful feelings and gives peace of mind.
Further, senior centers and homes like ours do include a lot of activity and engagement with others throughout the day. The article suggest why these are important with the following suggestions:
Become More Social
Engaging with others is a highly effective way to lower stress. Social support is vital because it prevents loneliness and amplifies acceptance and solidarity, which can lower stress. Also, interacting more with loved ones and friends, whether face-to-face, on the phone, in a letter, or online often has a soothing effect.
Become a part of social groups, whether it’s an exercise class or joining a senior center. The Brookhouse Home has a full time activity director who is instrumental in keeping activities fun and interesting.
Alternatively, a pet could make a great companion for an older adult. There are many great dogs for seniors. But if you’re a cat person, they are also a great low-maintenance choice for seniors, too. At the Brookhouse Home, we have visits from a support animal (usually a Golden Retriever) who greet our residents and spends time with them. Research shows that the unconditional love pets or visiting pets display naturally lowers stress levels and reduces blood pressure.
Exercise, Maintain A Healthy Diet, And Remember To Breathe
Physical activity doesn’t have to mean a rigorous workout; it can be something as simple as a walk around the block. The Brookhouse Home is situated in one of the prettiest blocks in Salem and in springtime our walking group sets off for a good walk.
The important part is getting fresh air and some sunshine, which are great natural stress relievers. We look forward to enjoying our lovely patio and lawn this spring.
Some older adults may have trouble moving because of limited mobility, but there are many activities for seniors, as well as numerous indoor exercises to try.
Eating right and getting consistent quality sleep is another way to manage stress because they promote cell regeneration and many other benefits. Our meals are served in a communal dining room and are an important part of our social life.
And of course, when you wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning, you will also feel much less stressed.
Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing exercises are another way to lower anxious feelings.
Even taking a moment to gather your thoughts can elevate energy levels and calm stress. Journaling is an excellent way to do this.
Since Stress Awareness began 30 years ago, we have come a long way. The Brookhouse Home is situated on the water and sometimes just looking at the harbor is all one needs to de-stress! Take a moment to look around and enjoy the beauty of this city!