Six ways to promote good mental health and wellbeing amongst older peopleMental health has been one of the most talked about subjects throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Not only has the virus taken its toll on the physical health of millions of people across the globe, but it has also impacted the mental health and wellbeing of many individuals, too.

And while mental health has often been a hot topic for the younger generation, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light many of the common challenges faced by older people, including loneliness, isolation and poor mobility, to name a few.

So, how exactly can older people look after their mental health, and how can friends, family and healthcare workers help support them? As leaders in kind care, our main objective is to make a real difference to the lives of older men and women in the communities we serve across the UK. Together with our wellbeing and quality of life specialists at HC-One, we have shared our six top tips to help people maintain good mental health and wellbeing in later life.

Take part in meaningful activities  

You are never too old to take part in the hobbies and interests you love, whether that is gardening, knitting or local sightseeing. It is important to make time for such activities, to bring you joy, stimulate your mind and help you be creative.
 
You may even want to pick up a new hobby – it is never too late to try something new! Perhaps you could visit your local community centre, as this is a great way of joining new clubs and meeting like-minded people in the local area.
 
For those living in a care home, the team will often arrange a variety of exciting activities for you to join in with. At HC-One, we recognise that Residents must feel engaged and listened to, so we encourage their input in the wellbeing programme for their home, which includes activities from animal therapy and pamper sessions to quizzes and local excursions to promote links with the community.

Stay connected with friends and family

Maintaining good communication with loved ones is an important part of enhancing mental health, to help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation within the older community.

Of course, communication was one of the key challenges to overcome during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdown restrictions meaning many older people could not see their loved ones face to face.

However, advancements in technology mean that, if you cannot see friends and family face to face, you can meet them virtually instead. Platforms like Skype and Zoom can enable you to stay connected with family all over the world, from the comfort of your own home.

Keep active: physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand  

It is true that, by keeping your body healthy, you help to keep your mind healthy too. Although some individuals may experience a decline in energy, mobility or confidence as they grow older, it is still important to remain active as this can help reduce the risk of illness, enhance independence and encourage socialisation.
 
You may find you cannot participate in the same level or type of exercise that you used to, however, you can still take part by adapting your technique. At HC-One, our homes work closely with trained fitness professionals to design appropriate exercise plans for Residents, with qualified personal trainers even hosting remote functional exercise classes via Zoom.

Get plenty of sleep  

People may find their sleep pattern begins to change as they get older, with the length and quality of their sleep decreasing. It is true that a good night’s sleep is one of the key ingredients for maintaining good mental health, so you may find the following tips helpful in making sure you get the downtime you need:

     - Ensure you take time out to wind down before bed. Perhaps you could swap the TV screen for your favourite book or some relaxing music, as blue light         from electronic screens is linked to symptoms of insomnia and can make it difficult to fall asleep.
     - Establish a regular sleeping routine that works for you – it may be helpful to track your normal pattern in a sleep diary, to identify any areas that need            changing.
     - Consider avoiding certain foods before bedtime. Food and drink containing caffeine and sugar can significantly disrupt your sleep.
     - Adapt your sleeping area to suit your needs. For example, you may find you sleep better with a nightlight on, or perhaps with a lighter duvet or warmer         room temperature.

Eat well and stay hydrated  

At HC-One we believe that good food = a good mood. After all, food and drink are what fuels your body, so it is important your diet is balanced and consists of nutrient-rich foods to ensure you feel energised for the day ahead.
 
Typically, you should be eating five portions of fruit or vegetables every day, as well as ensuring you eat enough starchy carbohydrates, protein, dairy and healthy fats.
 
Without a balanced diet, you could lack energy to maintain the other areas that enhance good mental health. For example, you may find you do not sleep as well if you eat too much sugar or drink too much caffeine, and you may not feel up to joining in with exercise or other activities.

Do not be afraid to ask for help  

Never be afraid to ask for additional help or support if you feel like you are struggling. You may wish to reach out to a close family member or good friend, or perhaps you need expert advice from a trained healthcare professional. No matter what challenges you are facing or what concerns you may have, there is plenty of help available that is designed specifically to support your mental health and wellbeing.
 
Additional support available from HC-One
 
At HC-One, it is our mission to be the first-choice care home for Residents and Colleagues in each of the communities we serve. We hope to achieve this mission through providing the kindest possible care to our Residents.
 
For more information about the care we can provide to you or your loved one, please contact our friendly Careline team on: 0333 999 8699.