How to approach elderly mental health in India #CauseAChatter
“The child is the father of man” ~ William Wordsworth. I still clearly remember how animatedly George Sir, our English teacher at school, explained to us the meaning of this magnificent idiom. While my amateur mind cannot fully comprehend the deep meaning behind those words back then, I’m pretty sure now I can. The elders in our life, i.e. our parents, our family, our teachers, etc. contribute richly to the person we become. They nourish us by planting the seed of goodness in our hearts and generously enrich it with the light of wisdom and the flow of knowledge. Isn’t it our moral responsibility then to make sure that they are taken care of and that the mental health of the elderly in our lives is brought forward and dealt with in a timely manner?
My dad was home and alone for 6 months during the lockdown last year. As I mumbled about the accumulated work and the loss of sense of myself, he patiently convinced me that ‘This too should pass’. Although it was truly heartwarming, her positive attitude didn’t faze me. I wish I could have thought like him. However, the fear and frustration from there is now replaced with widespread infections, the collapse of our healthcare system and, worse yet, countless deaths. Death has engulfed our families and loved ones, making us grossly aware of its infinite power. So much so that my happy father also slightly lost his optimism. The mental health of the elderly is therefore more important than ever. Pandemic or not, what can we do to better prepare them for this phase of life?
Stimulate their mind
Remember how we invented new activities for our children when they were younger? Old age is not much different from that, although one cannot expect seniors to be so docile. A stimulated mind keeps you alert, busy, and is a wonderful companion. Motivate them to start reading, introduce them to video games and puzzles, or encourage them to keep a gratitude journal. Learning to play an instrument or a new language can also be a good option if they are interested. Let them take something they like, not to distract them.
Connect with friends
A morning stroll in the park or gossip over a cup of tea in the evening are events the elders look forward to. It’s time to socialize, exchange updates, and complain about the poor state of our economy. Social media has helped create a window into their past where they can reconnect with their long lost friends. Daily Hello messages on Whatsapp can be boring, but this is their way of showing love. Laughter clubs are also a great way to manage the mental health of the elderly. My father, like any typical man, barely remembers birthdays or anniversaries, but is the first to wish anyone on Facebook. Isn’t that cute? Don’t judge them on how they choose to spend their time, they have earned this right.
Be in good physical shape
There are multiple health complications in old age, many of which are easily preventable. Lifestyle-related illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes often prompt problems like anxiety and depression. Persuade them to do any physical activity and make it a habit. Market, Yoga, stretching, light exercise, breathing exercises are good for physical and mental health. These will keep them in good shape, infuse with positivity, and keep their joints lubricated. A healthy mind in a healthy body, after all!
Sometimes people have the intention and the means but not the time to invest in volunteer work. There is a wide range of nonprofit organizations that can benefit from the help of an experienced professional. Teaching underprivileged children, partnering with various clubs for social work, helping out in community kitchens, hospitals, etc. are ways in which they can volunteer. However, the mental health of the elderly and their safety must be the top priority.
Find a new hobby
The hectic and competitive life robs people of their love for hobbies. Retirement life is the best time to explore new things. Motivate them to make a to-do list if they haven’t, and offer to do your part to check off items. Gardening, cooking, playing a new sport or traveling the world are fun hobbies to find time for. These will not only boost their confidence, but also make them socially active. With spouses or alone, encourage them to become the “ coolest grandparents ” in the neighborhood just by having fun!
Growing up the strong hand that held our little finger while we have taken our first step becomes brittle, wrinkled and needs support from us instead. What could be better than giving him the goal and the enthusiasm to always be the strongest? The mental health of the elderly like our parents, loved ones and even our neighbors is our responsibility. They are going through a difficult time in their life and may be reluctant to share their true fears with you. You still understand them, don’t you?
This post is part of #CauseAChatter with Blog chat
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