Around 65% of people aged 55 and over in the UK are stressed, according to recent research by YouGov. The study is believed to be the largest ever on stress in the UK, with almost 5,000 people surveyed. Among seniors in the UK, the causes of stress are manifold. One is undoubtedly loneliness. The NHS reports that over two million people in England alone over the age of 75 live alone and more than one million seniors say that a month can go by without speaking with family, friends, or neighbours. Other causes include the loss of a spouse or family members, and having to carry out everyday tasks while battling chronic illness.
Why is Stress so Dangerous for Seniors?
A recent study soon to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shown that people aged 65 or over are five times more likely to die within a six-week follow-up period if they had high stress levels. Chronic stress damages the lining of the blood vessels, and can raise blood pressure and cholesterol. Moreover, seniors who are stressed tend to consume a less healthy diet, and are more likely to take part in unhealthy habits such as drinking or smoking.
Natural Ways for Seniors to Battle Stress
In order to keep stress hormone levels down, seniors should try to stay active, taking part in activities such as yoga and mindfulness meditation, found in many studies to promote greater mental clarity and lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Those who have limited mobility or who are battling painful conditions such as osteoarthritis should consult their doctor about the suitability of chair yoga. A recent study carried out at Florida Atlantic University found that chair yoga actually reduced pain and improved the quality of life of seniors with osteoarthritis, helping them avoid medication and its side effects. Pain is intricately linked with stress, so activities that quell it should be considered an important part of boosting seniors’ mental health as well. Tai Chi is another gentle way to relieve stress that seniors across the globe enjoy.
The Importance of Social Interaction
Meeting others and taking part in group activities are another excellent way for seniors to battle stress. In addition to group exercise classes, they might consider activities such as cooking classes. A healthy diet is important during times of stress, so preparing healthy meals as part of a group can kill two birds with one stone. Seniors should also lean on others for support with tasks that may be difficult for them – including shopping, transport, and the like. If seniors do not have family members nearby, there are dedicated agencies that can be hired to fulfil particular tasks.
Several studies have shown that having a pet can help keep stress and loneliness at bay so if you are up for taking your dog for several walks a day, or for caring for a cat or other pet, now might be a good time to do so. Financial considerations should play a role in your decision to get a pet, since all pets need regular veterinarian visits, flea and tick treatments, deworming, grooming, etc. If a pet is affordable for you, however, they can provide great motivation for you to get up and about and meet others on your daily walks.
We have mentioned just a few ways to tackle stress naturally but any activity that seniors enjoy and ‘lose themselves in’ in a positive way – be it art, horticulture, or the arts – can also help reduce the effects of stress. Seniors should understand that they are particularly vulnerable to stress and try to find ways to stay active socially and pursue activities that can boost their mood and enable them to sleep well at night. It is also important to ensure that stress does not result in the consumption of fast and unhealthy foods, which can increase the risk of heart disease and lower the immunity at a time when it is most needed.
Written by Jane Sandwood