Aging Healthy: Maintaining Our Mental Health

In our last Aging Healthy series post, we talked about visiting our healthcare providers and the importance of regular office visits. Today, we’ll focus on mental health.

a man and woman share a laugh as they sit on a blue yoga mat. [credit:, kraken images]
[CREDIT:, Kraken Images]

As we age and go into retirement, we sometimes find ourselves losing—or perhaps entirely without—daily connections to the world. We might no longer have a job that keeps us connected with other people and their lives. Losing family members and friends might make it difficult to get from place to place. Physical changes, like hearing or vision loss or memory declines, might hamper our ability to perform routine tasks. While virtually everyone who ages experiences these losses, they nonetheless can make it difficult to maintain social connections, which can lead to social isolation and/or feelings of loneliness.

Building and nurturing social connections is important to maintaining your mental health, a key element in your overall health and quality of life. The National Institute on Aging provides some ways to stay connected:

  • Stay in touch with family and friends in person, over the phone or online.
  • Make time each day to maintain connections with others. Saying hello to neighbors can help initiate a conversation.
  • Take a class to learn something new or use a skill you already have and can teach others.
  • Learn a new language or a new skill such as cooking or playing a musical instrument.
  • Be a regular at your community senior center.
  • Join a book club.
  • Donate time to your favorite charity, organization, local school, library, hospital.
  • Invite a friend over to share a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Get involved with your church, synagogue, or place of worship.
  • Take a walk and invite your neighbor to come along with you.
  • Have an afternoon board game social and invite your friends and neighbors.
  • Find free group tours and programs at museums

Another part of our mental health is managing stress that occurs with a difficult life event or other trying circumstance. Finding ways to lower stress can support healthy aging and can help you stay physically and mentally healthy. Here are some stress-management suggestions from the National Institute on Aging:

  • Practice meditation, mindfulness, or yoga.
  • Stay physically active and maintain your routine.
  • Participate in activities you enjoy.
  • Keep a journal to help identify and challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Read a book that interests you, a magazine, or the newspaper.
  • Listen to music.
  • Work on a crossword puzzle or word search.
  • Paint, do adult coloring, crochet, sew, or embroider
  • Start a project or hobby you always wanted to do.
  • Reach out to friends, neighbors, and family.
  • Get outside with nature by walking, gardening, participating in an outdoor sport.
  • Ask for help when you do feel overwhelmed.
a man and woman take a break to sit on a bench near a lake in a grassy park, with their bicycles nearby. [credit: nguyen thu hoai]
[CREDIT: Nguyen Thu Hoai]

These are just a few of the many activities that can help ease stress in our lives, leading to (or helping to maintain) our mental health. Learn more stress-management tips and techniques from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Next time, we will look at cognitive health. Visit the Aging Healthy blog series feed to find all current posts.


Maria Portelos-Rometo is a UF/IFAS Extension Agent at Sarasota County. She specializes in Family and Consumer Sciences.
Posted: May 7, 2024

Category: Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Aging, Aging Healthy, AgingHealthy, Emotion, Health, Mental, Mental Health, Pgm_FCS, Senior

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