Happier Seniors are Healthier Seniors

How they feel not only affects our senior loved ones in the moment, but also for years to come.

We found an article from AARP that highlights two recent studies that delve into the effect our seniors’ mood has on their physical health.

One study in the Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests that a positive attitude can protect our elders against poor health later and may be an antidote to stress, pain and illness.

Another study, in Psychology: Health and Well-Being, found that happy people tend to live longer.

We know that if we eat right, get enough physical activity and stop smoking we can improve our health, but how do we change our attitude?  “Happiness is not the magic bullet” states the author, Illinois psychologist Ed Diener, but being happy can change your senior’s risk of poor health.

6 Suggestions to Help Your Senior Loved One be Happier

  1. Adopt an Animal to keep your senior company – pets give more than companionship. Studies show that pet owners feel closer to their pets than they do to their own family members. Pets listen attentively and love unconditionally.  97% of pet owners report that they talk to their pets and it is said the other 3% lied. Having a pet is calming for most seniors.   If your senior doesn’t want to care for a pet, perhaps he can volunteer at an animal shelter or zoo, walk someone’s dog or try a bird.
  2. Turn up the music – soothing, familiar sounds can reduce stress and provide comfort. Playing soothing music can help your senior fall asleep. It also triggers memory, reduces anxiety and agitation and can promote healing by reducing stress hormones.
  3. Have a good laugh – a strong belly laugh can dull pain and boost energy for your senior. It can allow blood vessels to open, which is good for your senior loved one’s heart. Your senior needs to laugh every day (and so do you as a caregiver).
  4. Get back to nature – going outside can boost your senior loved one’s mood. It can decrease her stress, depression and tension. Natural settings stimulate the mind. Being outdoors can help seniors concentrate, improve their memory and just restore them. Of course, getting more physically active helps also by walking, gardening, fishing, or cycling while we enjoy the sunshine.
  5. Help themselves by helping others – if your senior volunteers in the community or with friends, relatives or neighbors, they report more happiness than those who don’t. We know staying engaged with the community keep our senior’s minds sharp too. Volunteers report greater life satisfaction.
  6. Try tai chi – this activity reduces anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure and can relieve chronic pain.  It helps seniors focus on their breathing, body and mind.

As the article so succinctly puts it, “if you rarely walk on the sunny side of the street, now’s the time to cross over.”