With Mental Health Week taking place this month, it is a good reminder for all of us to think about our mental wellness. Maintaining good mental health and well-being is important at every age, and older adults are no exception. As we enter our golden years, we want to ensure they are filled with health, social connection, vitality, and meaning.
With aging may come a number of different challenges that can make older adults especially vulnerable to mental health concerns. As we age, we may begin to experience memory problems and cognitive decline. We may be coping with chronic pain and other long-term illnesses. As we enter a new season of life, we often need to adjust to significant life changes such as retirement and our children leaving home. We may also find ourselves coping with the loss of beloved family members and friends. As a result of these life changes, we may experience feelings of anxiety and stress. We also may experience loneliness and isolation. With the onset of COVID-19, we are even more at risk of loneliness and isolation as a result of social distancing and having less access to our usual support networks and community programs.
The good news is there are steps we can take every day to help us embrace these life changes and begin our journey towards a better sense of well-being. So how do we get started? Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Mental Health Program has created a Thrive Over 55 tip sheet at WellBeingGuide.ca which lists five simple tips for taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Look for ways incorporate at least one of these tips into your daily routine to enhance your mental health and wellness.
- Discover – Try out a new hobby or explore something new to learn more about. You can pick up a book on a topic you have always wanted to find out more about, try out a new healthy recipe, or look up tutorial videos online to learn a new hobby such as knitting or playing an instrument.
- Get Up And Go – Being active is important to maintaining our physical and mental health. With the warmer months now upon us, there is no better time to get outside and go for a walk! The Government of Manitoba has also compiled a list of virtual exercises you can do at home at SafeAtHomeMB.ca.
- Share Your Gifts – Look for ways to give back and help others in our community. Sharing your time and expertise with others can be rewarding and may give you a renewed sense of purpose. Check out the virtual or phone-based volunteer opportunities available through Volunteer Manitoba, or simply give a friend or neighbour a call to see how they are coping in the midst of the pandemic.
- Reflect – Take a moment every day to reflect on a favourite memory or look through an old photo album. Start a journal to write down some of your most treasured stories and memories. Sharing these stories with family and friends is also a great way to reminisce and reconnect over a special memory.
- Gratitude – Being thankful helps us to stay positive and can even give our immune system a boost! Practice writing down three good things that happened in your day and three things you are grateful for, such as a friend or a pet.
In recognition of the loneliness and isolation faced by many older adults, The Vic Foundation and Victoria Lifeline have developed a new program to combat senior isolation known as Send A Smile To A Senior. The program kicked off in December by delivering care packages with local goods and handmade cards to over 450 isolated seniors in our community. Our next Send A Smile To A Senior initiative, Calls For Comfort, is a partnership with Fort Richmond Collegiate where seniors who have registered through the Fort Garry Seniors Resource Council will participate in weekly half hour phone or virtual conversations over a four-week period.
Taking care of our mental health is an important part of healthy aging. Look for opportunities every day to give your mental wellness a boost and to live your best life. Take the first step on your well-being journey today!
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health concerns, don’t hesitate to seek help from a trained mental health professional. You can also visit www.manitoba.ca/covid19/bewell for a list of mental health resources compiled by the Government of Manitoba to help people cope during COVID-19.
Erin Girouard is the Communications & Public Relations Manager at Victoria General Hospital Foundation. This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.