Seniors: Healthy outlook on life

Some people identify themselves through their work. Retirement comes along and they make choices about their futures, if they haven’t been planning all along the way of their working careers. They may become so busy in retirement that they wonder how they ever had time to work full time. Or, their spirits plummet because they just don’t have a reason any more. How can seniors keep a healthy outlook on life?

Handling aging can be a delicate matter. Does anyone really want to be “old”? Probably not. An important part of aging is taking care of yourself so you have fewer risk factors. The National Council on the Aging advises that about 20 percent of people age 55 and older experience mental disorders that are NOT a part of aging: anxiety disorders (phobias), dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s (cognitive impairment) and depression, bipolar (mood disorders.)

Are you depressed? Do you feel empty, sad, anxious for more than a week or two? Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy? Are you having weight issues? Do you have sleep problems? Are you irritable, tired or lacking energy? Do you have trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions? Have you had suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide?

Cognitive impairment symptoms include forgetting events or activities, not recognizing people and objects that have meaning for you, forgetting to do simple things like going to the bathroom and problems speaking, understanding, reading or writing, aggressive behavior and wandering away.

However, be aware, these symptoms may also be related to things like side effects from medication or interactions between medicines or alcohol abuse. A complete assessment by a competent health professional is essential for getting answers and resolutions to cognitive issues.

Anxiety issues alert the body to danger, even when there is none. It may be caused by a chemical imbalance, illness, side effects or may even be related to an unconscious memory.

As people age, major changes occur. There are so many changes: the family, the neighborhood, technology, retirement, moving to a new home, losing a spouse. These are some of the risk factors for depression in aging Americans. Other risks of depression include physical illness, inability to perform routine functions, heavy alcohol consumption, persistent insomnia, chemical imbalances in the brain, side effects from medications for arthritis, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

Anxiety and depression affect quality of life. Individuals who suffer these things are more inclined not to leave their homes, especially alone. They are at a higher risk for cognitive and functional impairment, psychological distress and death. Depressed people visit the doctor more frequently and use more medications. Older persons also have the highest suicide rate. Some conditions require nursing facility care, which is stressful for the individual and the family.

These problems can be treated and older Americans can have better quality of life when they are not held back by the stigma that still is attached to mental health issues and treatment. There is a lot of life out there to be lived.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information about the programs contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,