By: Kent Elliot, Guest Contributor
Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design.
After a stroke left him with mobility issues, he thought he would need to move out of his home and into an assisted living community. But, using his experience as an architect and a little creativity, he was able to successfully remodel his family home instead. The relief he felt has inspired him to help others do the same.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging.
Growing older is a challenge everyone must face, but that doesn’t make it any easier. And many factors affect how much stress you must deal with in your golden years. Fortunately, there are ways to address those conditions and make life more enjoyable.
Mobility and Independence Concerns
Because mobility challenges affect many seniors, it’s a significant health stressor in daily life. Difficulty getting around means an increased fall risk and worries over injuries. And as HealthDay reports, nearly 40 percent of older adults live with at least one disability, whether mobility-related or otherwise. Physical barriers to independence can cause significant stress. After all, no adult wants to be dependent on others to get around or take care of themselves.
But taking steps to enhance your independence — such as modifying your home or investing in assistive technology — can help. Also, worrying about falls can be eased through a regular exercise program. MedlinePlus recommends balance movements, stretches, and even swimming for building strength and reducing fall hazards.
Many seniors find that they have challenges getting restful sleep. If you’re not getting proper sleep, you may be more likely to have poor immunity, mood changes, and higher blood pressure. For a lot of seniors, back pain can make sleeping difficult. If you’re a senior who is experiencing chronic pain, a new mattress may be in order, especially if you’ve had your current one for many years. If you’re suffering from back pain, consider your sleeping style before making a purchase. For example, if you’re a side sleeper, a Nest Alexander mattress offers pressure relief, while a Saavta provides plenty of support with a double layer of coils.
For seniors who serve as caretakers for their spouse or an older parent, stress can have severe consequences. The American Institute of Stress explains that one study found that seniors who were caretakers for their spouses were 63 percent more likely to die within four years than those who weren’t stressed. It’s a scary prospect, but the good news is you can reduce the effects.
If you care for a family member and regularly feel overwhelmed, worried, or sad, reach out for help. Local caregiving resources like home health care services, housekeeping or companionship assistance, or meal delivery can all ease your responsibilities. Make time for yourself as much as possible, too, to avoid burnout and preserve your health.
Worry Over Finances
Financial issues are another reason many seniors feel stressed out. Over one-third of older adults say they experience significant financial stress due to issues like lost income or work hours, bankruptcy, and tax bills. To handle personal finance problems, AARP recommends working with an expert financial planner. Finding the right fit is vital, as you want someone you can trust that will listen to your concerns. Because this is a service you pay for, it can feel intimidating to seek help. However, if the investment helps you better navigate your finances, it’s worth the cost. To start, you should collect all of your bills and income information to see where you’re spending the most and how to address monthly payments and debt.
Mental Health Challenges
While exterior stressors can cause problems, so can internal worries. Dealing with emotional stressors, including feeling anxious or depressed, can harm your health. In fact, anxiety and depression can have as tremendous an impact on your overall health as smoking can.
One in five adults lives with a mental illness, BlueCross BlueShield notes, which means such challenges are more common than you might think. If you experience such difficulties, consider talking to a mental health professional about what you’re feeling.
Of course, healthcare coverage may determine your ability to find mental health help, especially if you are dealing with bankruptcy or debt.
Fortunately, obtaining coverage for mental health services is straightforward with options like Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B covers services like counseling and psychiatric assistance, plus a depression screening each year with your doctor. Asking for help is a sure way to get on the path toward better health and less stress, even if it’s nerve-wracking to face.
Even in retirement, stress can take a toll on older adults. The key to reducing stressors that affect your mental, physical, and financial well-being involves proactive steps toward both resolving stress and managing its effects.