Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

How to Deal with the Stress of Aging in the 21st Century

Stress is hard on anyone. If you are over 65 you may face unique problems when you are dealing with health and aging.

Piled on top of the normal problems of aging you must also deal with the misperceptions, labels, and discrimination that go along with aging in the present culture.

Events like the death of a loved one, moving, and divorce can be very impactful. A variety of new challenges can impact an elderly person and those around them.

It is important for caregivers and fellow seniors to pay attention to the unique stressors seniors face.

By becoming sensitive to the problems facing older people we can help combat these issues before they become unmanagable.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Death of a Loved One is One of the Biggest Challenges

The challenge of living a long life is that seniors often see friends and family members passing away.

The death of a loved one can truly rattle a senior’s life. Sadly, according to Complete Care California, the risk for a senior passing within three months of their spouse is the greatest risk.

Death of a spouse or life partner can impact independence because spouses often rely on one another for physical help or mental assistance.

Grief can weaken the immune system, which won’t battle diseases as quickly or efficiently. Lowered immune response can increase the chance of the remaining spouse to dying soon after.

As older people face the realities of death, it can be a very large stressor in their lives.

Complications with Sex as a Senior

The added stress over dying can impact seniors’ sex lives, which they may already stress over. As we age, our bodies change which can, in turn, make older people feel embarrassed about who they have become physically.

Things that Can Affect Sexual Performance for Seniors

  • Older men might be worried about having sex after a heart attack
  • Many prescription drugs can seriously lower sexual libido
  • Feeling self-conscious about physical appearance can cause people to deny themselves
  • Lack of mobility or hormonal changes in the body can make sexual activity painful
  • Feeling a lack of purpose in life makes sex seem pointless

There are many ways to adapt sexual activities to increase pleasure as an older person. Talk with your partner and possibly you doctor to address these problems, lower stress, and increase sexual satisfaction.  

Divorce After the Age of 65

Gray divorce is when people who have been married for decades decide to separate.

There are a variety of reasons couples who are over 50 years of age get divorced:

  • Growing apart from your partner
  • The challenges of age and its physical impacts
  • Wanting to improve yourself

Divorce can cause a lot of stress due to these big changes, and it can impact not only the people within the relationship but kids and grandkids as well.

Some impacts on health  after divorce or separation include an increase in isolation and even risky behaviors. Ways to combat this can include adopting a pet, increasing exercise, learning a new skill, or joining a club.

Or you could even try dating!

Relocation After the Age of 65

Moving to a new place can increase an older person’s stress if you are not used to moves or changes in your life because you leave old relationships and memories behind.

Some elders move in with family members, a retirement community, or even into assisted living situations.

Moves that decrease your autonomy as an adult can lead to negative feelings due to a lack of independence.

Giving up your private home can have a major emotional impact because you are often moving from a house into a small room. Having to get rid of most of your belongings can be traumatic.

Elders may have anxiety about finances as moving to a new community may present new costs (e.g., the cost of assisted living averages $4,000 per month nationally).

As you face increasing changes in your life and health there may be an urge to neglect your own needs and fall into depression.

The stress of moving can turn into relocation stress syndrome (RSS). symptoms are agitation, a loss of sleep, nausea, and withdrawal.

According to Bethesda Health, the transition can take three to six months, and it is important to not move second time if at all possible during this time period to prevent more trauma.

Combating Isolation and Depression

When you face a variety of stressors as an elder — including many of the above — it might feel perfectly natural to isolate yourself at home.

As we grow older we often lack a support network. Some elders start to push away social experiences, and can become “shut-ins”.

But separating yourself from the world around you can actually increase the risk of depression. Self-isolation can turn into a vicious cycle and make an elder want to hide even longer within their homes.

One of the best solutions to dealing with the issues of being an elder in isolation is to get the help of a mental health care physician.

Medicare Part B offers yearly depression screening and counseling if a you are concerned about you mental health as an older person.

Self-Empowerment and Purpose as an Elder

Aging has changed a lot since the days of retiring at 65 and waiting to die. Many people continue to work, go back to school, start a new business, or learn and new skill after the age of 65.

Many times depression and declining health are due to our perceptions of ourselves as unattractive, “used up” and “finished with life” after the age of 65.

Expectations of ill health and isolation can become self-fulling prophecies if you accept these archaic ideas at face value.

So don’t just sit there and wait to die. Get up and do something that interests you and that you have always wanted to do.

By being engaged and involved in life you can improve your mental health, and this can drastically improve your physical wellbeing while you are at it.

As an elder facing the stress that accompanies aging in your life, it is imperative to find ways to address the issues of aging and keep your problems from escalating.

First Photo is by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels other photos are from Adobe Stock

Article by Kent Elliot, his website is At Home Aging. Kent is a retired architect who helps people adapt thier homes as they age and the Author of Aging in Place One Project at a Time: DIY Home Modifications That Don’t Require a Professional.

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