How to Motivate Older Adults and Improve Their Mental Health
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How to Motivate Older Adults and Improve Their Mental Health

At present, there is significantly less stigma attached to public discussion about mental health than there once was. This development is especially significant for older adults, as according to the CDC, approximately 20% of Americans aged 55 and over experience mental health issues of some kind. Those with dementia are at even greater risk for problems related to mental and emotional health, which can indirectly cause negative impacts on physical and cognitive health.

It’s therefore imperative for primary caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia to take steps that help their loved one find greater mental wellness. At Town Square Perry Hall, our adult day enrichment programming focuses on overall mental, physical, and cognitive health, social connections that foster emotional wellness, learning, and fun, and our approach is based on reminiscence therapy, a leading technique in psychological care for people with dementia. Contact us today to learn more about what makes us the best choice for our members and their caregivers, or read further for information on everyday senior mental health practices.

Understanding the Importance of Motivation and Mental Health for Seniors

The statistics on older adults’ mental health may be concerning, but there are solutions at hand. The conversation on mental health has shifted, and we have a better understanding of how to manage and treat psychological conditions. At the same time, people with dementia can only improve their mental wellness if they are motivated to do so, and caregivers are well-positioned to provide that motivation.

Factors Affecting Motivation and Mental Health in Older People

Lack of motivation and poor mental health can come from a number of different sources, and identifying these sources is the first step toward real improvement.

Physical Health

Mental health and physical health are closely linked, with each impacting the other. Findings released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 showed that seniors with heart disease were more likely to experience negative mental health symptoms, such as depression. The WHO also found that untreated mental health conditions can increase the risk of heart disease, highlighting the close relationship between physical and mental health. Findings published in 2021 reached similar conclusions, as well as saying that those hospitalized with a mental illness are far more likely to be hospitalized again for a physical illness. 

Social Interactions

A study from 2013 found that adults who reported social isolation or loneliness were likely to experience reduced cognitive function four years later, and research from 2019 seems to support similar conclusions. Anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease are more common in socially isolated seniors, and rates of physical conditions like heart disease were also higher. By the same token, Harvard Medical School has published research that shows direct links between an active social life and improved physical and mental well-being.

Cognitive Ability

Seniors who remain intellectually stimulated with personally meaningful tasks tend to enjoy better mental health. As cognitive ability declines, these tasks can become increasingly difficult, which has a negative impact on emotional and psychological well-being.

Strategies to Motivate Older Adults and Improve Their Mental Health

Small changes to routine and habit can have a major impact on well-being, helping older adults find greater happiness and quality of life.

Creating Meaningful Daily Routines

Most people find themselves preferring a set routine as they get older. This is particularly the case for seniors with dementia, and routines help to avoid the confusion and stress sometimes associated with this condition.

Creating a predictable daily schedule helps to instill feelings of comfort and safety. Building an activity session into the daily routine helps to introduce variation without losing the familiarity and regularity that people with dementia benefit from. Devoting this time to personally meaningful hobbies — creative endeavors like painting or tasks that provide a sense of purpose — can make a real difference, and at Town Square, all of the varied activities our members enjoy each day create connection and engagement in unique ways.

Encouraging Social Connections

Social isolation in people with dementia tends to stem from fear, whether on the part of that person or their caregiver, that exposing cognitive limitations in social interaction will make them worse. However, the opposite is true: Maintaining social bonds has a positive effect on both mental and cognitive health. Again, this can be built into the regular daily routine as caregivers make time for gatherings and interactions.

Members of Town Square spend the daytime hours during the week in an immersive environment that encourages social interaction and lasting connection, both with peers and the highly-trained members of our team.

Promoting Physical Activity

The brain is a body part like any other, meaning the body and the mind aren’t separate in any sense, and physical health affects mental health and vice-versa. Physical activity doesn’t have to be exhausting, and it doesn’t have to put seniors at risk of injury. Dancing, gentle aerobics, nature walks, and other activities all get seniors moving and help them avoid the mental and physical ill effects of remaining sedentary for too long, such as loneliness and reduced circulation

Stimulating Cognitive Function

Cognition and mental health, too, are highly connected. When cognitive ability lessens, symptoms of depression and anxiety can set in as older people lose their creative and intellectual outlets. Town Square Perry Hall’s approach is based on the leading dementia care modality of reminiscence therapy, using specially selected prompts, objects associated with nostalgia, and storytelling in support of both mental and cognitive well-being.

The Mental Health Support Role of Caregivers

As the primary caregiver to a family member who has dementia, you have an important role to play in your loved one’s mental health. Things to keep in mind on the whole include:

Providing Effective Communication

Only with open and consistent communication can your loved one find their highest level of agency and independence. Don’t force the person you care for to make a choice that they are not up to, but consult them as much as possible. You should keep in mind that people with dementia can have a diminished capacity to make the best choice for themselves as the disease progresses – this level of ability will always vary from person to person.

Offering Encouragement

Sometimes, even the most motivated individual needs a bit of external validation. Caregivers can provide this with gentle and sincere encouragement, letting their loved ones know when they are doing well.

Additional Resources and Support

You can find additional assistance and support on your caregiving journey below:

Adult day care services: Town Square Perry Hall – 9708 Belair Rd., Baltimore (410-847-2150)

Local government support: Baltimore County Senior Services Department

Resources for caregivers: Baltimore County Aged Caregiver Services

Medical care and treatment: Greater Baltimore Medical Center at Perry Hall – 8615 Ridgelys Choice Dr. Ste. 105, Baltimore (410-529-6440)

Adult Day Services Supporting Senior Mental Health from Town Square Perry Hall

Simply put, you don’t have to do it alone, and getting the help you and your loved one may need is always the healthiest choice. Town Square Perry Hall is proud to provide not only the best senior day services and weekday respite care in the greater Baltimore area, but also general nursing care within our facility, access to caregiver education, support groups, and other resources, and much more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help or to schedule a tour for you and your loved one.