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Self Care for Older Adults in the Bay Area

Get tips about self care for older adults in the Bay Area. Seniorly offers some ideas and resources that can help seniors live peacefully and mindfully.

By Marlena del Hierro · Updated Aug 08, 2022
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“Self-care” can be a little nebulous. It’s a term that’s gotten a lot of attention since the pandemic started, as people lived through intense daily stress for months on end. Whether it was social isolation, fear of getting sick, or concern for the political upheaval our country has experienced in the last few years — or a combination of all these and more — self-care has been touted as a balm to our stressed minds and bodies.

But what does self-help really mean? Does it refer to luxuries like manicures or massages? Is it as simple as gardening? There’s no one answer: in many ways self-care is different from person to person. How then, should seniors, who are already at an increased risk of social isolation and other conditions, approach self-care?

Self-care for older adults is generally very similar to self-care for folks of any age, however, we have some tips on things you can try in the San Francisco Bay area, specifically.

  • Old and new hobbies: Often as adults we cannot make time for the hobbies we loved as kids. Whether it’s ballet class, basketball, or pottery, finding the time and funds to pursue a hobby can be a challenge. But seniors have access to senior centers, senior discounts, and free activities designed to help them spend their retirement learning new and interesting skills or polishing old ones. Whether you’re returning to an old beloved hobby or looking for a new one, search out opportunities in your area. And remember that hobbies are not about being “good” at something: it’s about the process. As long as you enjoy singing, playing chess, or making art you should do so, for the simple act of creativity.
  • Spend time outdoors: Every day, if you can, especially in a state like California where much of the climate is temperate. Whether it’s sitting on a balcony or patio, gardening, heading out for a short walk, or a longer walk through one of the Bay Area’s many regional parks, spending time outside can improve your mental health. There’s growing evidence that it can even improve cognitive skills, reduce stress, and restore our attentiveness.
  • Exercise: Even gentle exercise can release endorphins and help you to concentrate on something besides your worries (or give you a peaceful moment to focus on them, as the case may be). Studies have shown that exercise can help ease depression and anxiety, moreover, it’s a “use it or lose it” way to maintain strength, balance, and stamina for seniors. Older adults with disabilities should consult their physicians or physical therapists about the best way to pursue exercise and make adjustments that work for their unique needs.
  • Connect: Not just with family, who may be far away or who you just aren’t that close to. Make new friends by trying out group activities, perhaps at your local senior center, or strike up conversations as you pursue hobbies (many local yarn stores will have free hangout events where you can bring your knitting or crochet project, for example). If you aren’t comfortable with in-person events, or you don’t live in an area that offers a lot for seniors, join some online forums, discuss your interests and make some online friends. And don’t forget to take advantage of video call technology. Zoom burnout is real this far into the pandemic, but it’s worth using these tools to keep in touch with loved ones who are far away. Loneliness is unfortunately common among seniors and can have detrimental effects on not just mental but even our physical health.
    • Social clubs and meetups for seniors in the Bay Area might have been on hiatus during the pandemic, but some might be returning and others might have gone virtual. Search for organizations that run clubs, like Seniors at Home’s list of local tours and other activities.
  • Mindfulness, meditation, or journaling: Mindfulness exercises can help you focus on the present moment, a technique that can mitigate anxiety and the effects of stress. Many mindfulness techniques are basic forms of meditation, a practice that can further one’s ability to remain centered and calm. Similarly, journaling can take a number of formats and can help you take stock of your emotions or headspace and identify patterns of negative feelings or spiraling thoughts.

How caregivers can help encourage self-care in older adults

Maybe you’ve made sure that an older loved one’s needs are being taken care of — either by yourself, home care workers, or by their assisted living community’s staff — but you’re still concerned they aren’t practicing self-care. Even when their personal care is taken care of (ADLs, like daily grooming, bathing, etc.), some seniors struggle to find the energy to get out and do things, or to make new connections. In truth, making new friends can be tough at any age. Family members can help encourage seniors to get out by attending events and activities with them, especially if they’ve just moved into a senior living community where the environment is new.

If your loved one is particularly resistant to nurturing their own well-being, you might want to broach the idea of therapy for seniors. There are counselors and psychiatrists that specialize in helping older adults with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that might be preventing them from living life to the fullest.

Finally, remind your older loved one that self-care is not selfish: everyone needs and deserves time in their day for creativity, connection, and peacefulness.

Works consulted:

Weir, Kirsten. “Nurtured by nature.” April 1, 2020. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms.” September 27, 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

“Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.” Page last reviewed November 17th, 1999. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Mindfulness exercises.” September 15, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356
 

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written by:
Marlena del Hierro
VP of Partnerships at Seniorly, MA in Gerontology San Francisco State University
View other articles written by Marlena

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