As we get older, life can present new and extra challenges – from retirement and lifestyle changes to reduced mobility or independence, or the grief of losing people we care about. Add a once-in-100-years pandemic into the mix and it is no wonder many older people are finding these times difficult.
As we mark World Mental Health Day in October, it is timely to share some practical tips and resources that might help you, your family and friends look after your mental health and wellbeing.
Take care of your physical health
A healthy lifestyle boosts both your physical and mental health. Eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep all help your body and mind. Learning to prepare simple and healthy dishes at home can be rewarding, nutritious and fun, particularly as we spend more time at home during the pandemic. Exercise can take many forms as well. Going for walks and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine is an activity I look forward to every day. Exercising with a friend or in a group, virtually or in person, is also a great way to stay active.
Stay connected with family and friends
Many older people are finding it difficult to stay connected during the pandemic, which can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Connecting with others can be wonderful for your overall wellbeing. Socialising outdoors at a park or on a walk is a great way to catch up as the weather gets warmer. It’s also a good time to connect with your neighbours and your community. If you are unable to see friends and family in person, try talking on the phone, video or online. Sharing your feelings with others can be hard to do, but it can be really helpful to talk to someone – and to be an open ear for the people you love, too.
Focus on enjoyable and relaxing activities
Make time for the things you enjoy that make you feel good. Activities like exercising, meditating, reading, gardening, playing or listening to music are all positive ways to de-stress and relax. I’ve been enjoying podcasts lately. There are a range of groups out there, like Life Activities Clubs, Probus and Men’s Sheds, that give you the chance to connect with others and try something new. Check out your local council website for what’s available in your area. Check out the Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined program – with some groovy tunes, Radio plays and magic acts, updated monthly until the end of the year.
Give back and get involved
While there are some things we can’t do right now, there are many ways you can give back to others and plan for the future. Check in on your neighbours or call a friend who might need some support. Find out about local volunteering options in your community, sign up for a course or consider joining a local community group.
Help is available
It’s OK to not be OK and support is available. Here are some helpful phone numbers if you would like to talk to someone:
- Call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
- Call Friendline at 1800 424 287
If you need crisis support, please call Lifeline at 13 11 14.
Learn more about health and support services available for senior Victorians.
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation of services assisting senior Victorians.