According to a study on aging conducted by the NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute (WHI), most American adults fear the aging process for one reason or another. From potential memory issues to a lack of financial security, it’s no wonder that approximately 70 percent of American adults fear getting older. Other common stressors include a general decline in health, loss of independence and ongoing issues facing our nation’s healthcare system.
To learn more about these stressors and the different types of programs that are available to help seniors as they cope with these changes, review the information below.
As we age, our risk of developing certain types of medical conditions increases—especially diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and cardiovascular diseases. Other age-related medical conditions include Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
While it’s normal to fear these diseases, keep in mind that aging only increases your risk of developing them. Your lifestyle, diet, physical activity level and the environment in which you live can all play a role in whether you will develop these conditions as you age. As such, avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can all reduce your risk of developing an age-related disease.
Declining health is a major stressor among seniors, but it turns out that financial instability may be the biggest worry of all. According to one study, about 80 percent of Baby Boomers worry that they’ll run out of money during their senior years. In comparison, about 87 percent of survey respondents fear mental regression or loss of mobility—while 86 percent worry about the death of a child.
If financial instability is one of your greatest stressors, there are several steps you can take to ease your worries—such as setting a livable budget and working with a financial advisor. Additionally, Assisted Living Today provides a guide with expert advice on managing and protecting your finances.
Another common stressor that many seniors face includes the inability to live independently as they age. In fact, approximately 61 percent of seniors would prefer to live independently or with a caregiver if given the choice.
While total independence isn’t always possible, a variety of programs and services are available to seniors who’d prefer to age in place. Several of these programs are available through the following organizations:
- Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
- Eldercare Locator
- Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)
With aging may come physical changes such as weaker bones, memory loss, and digestive issues such as stomach pain or constipation. You may even notice that your five senses don’t work as well as they used to. However, following a healthy diet that contains plenty of lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats can help to keep your body strong and agile—even as you age.
Get the Help You Need
If these stressors begin to take a toll on your emotional health and well-being, it may be time to seek the help of a mental health professional. Common symptoms of depression in older adults include persistent sadness, loss of energy, pessimism, sleeping difficulties and recurring suicidal thoughts.
While these symptoms could be the result of a recent life event, medical condition or a prescription medication you’re taking, you could also be suffering from depression—a mental health condition that affects approximately 300 million individuals worldwide.
If you’re concerned about your emotional health, contact your primary caregiver to schedule a free depression screening. Through Medicare Part B, you’re eligible for one free depression screening per year, in addition to other covered mental health services such as counseling, individual or group psychotherapy, and visits with clinical social workers, psychiatrists, and other mental health care providers.
Although aging can be a stressful process, there are a variety of health services available to make it as smooth as possible. Contact your primary caregiver to learn more about these services—especially if you feel that you may be suffering from depression or chronic stress.
Special thanks to Jim Vogel of ElderAction.org. for today’s guest post!