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Stress and Seniors: Knowing the Signs and Solutions

The realities of senior living often do not match up with the carefree images on glossy retirement community sales brochures and magazine advertisements.

For many seniors today, the “golden years” can be incredibly stressful times. What causes seniors so much stress? Change is a major trigger, and seniors experience plenty of change … declining health, death of friends and loved ones, moving, the loss of retirement savings due to the downturn in the market. The list goes on.

Another common stressor for seniors is the cost of living: For those who live on fixed incomes, and even for those who do not, the ever increasing cost of living is a constant source of stress. Many seniors wonder how they are going to make ends meet as the cost of everything continues to rise, from heating oil, to property taxes, to the cost of prescription medication and other everyday necessities.

Caring for a loved one may also add stress to a senior’s life. “While the death of a loved one brings on a great deal of stress, the responsibilities associated with having to care for a loved one who is no longer able to care for him or herself can be just as stressful, if not more,” says Kym Clark, RN, Manager of Comfort Keepers Client Care Services.

Seniors also typically experience plenty of stress during the moving process. Whether it is to a smaller home or in with the family of a son or daughter or to an assisted living facility or nursing home, moving from the place that has been home for decades is particularly stressful, especially when the move coincides with a loss of independence.

Grandchildren can sometimes play a role in adding stress to seniors’ lives. Many seniors find themselves once again playing the role of parents, this time to their children’s children. “Young children are in constant need of attention and are very active, which can be a great burden for the elderly who are ready to slow down. And that is in addition to the increased financial demands that come with parenting,” says Clark.

Fortunately, seniors can control stress and counteract its harmful effects in a variety of healthful ways. Any type of aerobic activity that gets your heart beating a bit faster can be a great stress reliever. This includes walking, swimming, biking, shopping, and dancing. Yard and house work are other great healthful options for reducing stress. Regular exercise coupled with a nutritious diet can significantly reduce stress levels.

Studies show that older people who have pets are less stressed. Perhaps it is because pets make great companions and help their owners focus attention toward their care.

For those who believe, prayer empowers and lifts burdens. Worshiping with others and sharing concerns also ease feelings of stress.

Seniors should avoid allowing stress to build up inside of them. Talking troubles over with friends and family may not produce a solution, at least not immediately, but it will give them a release.

Seniors who have high stress levels in their lives may also consider volunteering as an activity to help relieve anxiety. Giving time and talents to a worthy cause and those in need can give focus.

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