Stress and The Senior of Today

Stress is a part of life. Truly, it doesn’t matter what age a person is, they will and do experience stress. Children feel the stress of doing well in school and learning how to navigate social situations. Adults feel the stress of responsibilities to their work, their families, and to their households. Seniors feel the stress from changes they aren’t prepared for like the death of a spouse, loss of contact with friends who have moved into different housing, and the simple tasks of everyday life that used to be easy and are now a bit more difficult due to health and physical limitations.

The effects of stress on seniors can exacerbate mental and physical health issues, adding to the normal stress that is coming from Life and aging. It’s important to understand that this additional stress isn’t good and when identified can and should be relieved quickly.

Here are five of the most common symptoms of seniors experiencing too much stress:

  1. Eating Habits. Changes in eating habits that range from loss of appetite to overeating.
  2. Mood Swings. Irritability, sadness, depression, bursts of anger, bursts of laughter.
  3. Memory Issues. Lack of concentration and inability to recall names, places, or other things that just a short time ago came easily and naturally.
  4. Aches and Pains. Sleeping patterns, increased episodes of illness, the onset of aches and pains for no apparent medical reason.
  5. Isolation. Refusal to socialize, to participate in activities they normally enjoy.

Recognizing these symptoms and having a conversation with the senior about what’s happening in their lives can begin the process of reducing the stress and returning the senior to a more relaxed state.

Some things to address in the conversation include:

  1. Financial Issues. The recent recession reduced most of the retirement investments and savings of the senior population to an alarmingly low level, causing a lot of stress and angst.
  2. Healthcare Costs and Changes. The cost of healthcare services has increased dramatically over the past few years. In addition, how these services are offered has changed so much that many seniors no longer know how to navigate the options and offices, physicians and specialists that are now available (or not available) to them.
  3. Grief. Acknowledge the recent loss of a loved one or friend and offer the senior solace through your own actions or by connecting them with a religious authority such as a priest or rabbi.
  4. Loneliness. Don’t ask – but look to see who they are interacting with and when. Do they talk about the bridge club or the golf outing? Do they talk about other people as if they were friends?

Once it’s been accepted that the senior is experiencing too much stress, some ways to alleviate the effects the stress has caused include yoga, walking, cycling, and other physical activities the senior enjoys. These are great tension relievers while also helping to clear their mind and feel more energized. Socializing is one of the best ways to reduce stress and keep it away. Social groups can be found at the local library, volunteer opportunities at the local senior center. The best way to help the senior is to take an active part in their recovery from being overstressed, and that can be as simple as making a phone call or driving them to an activity.