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Stress in the Elderly

We all need to face different kinds of mental stress in various stages of life. Chronic and excessive stress are harmful and can cause physical or mental problems. Therefore we should all understand more about stress and learn appropriate coping strategies for our physical and mental well being.

Sources of stress:

Common sources of stress for elderly include:

  • Changes of lifestyle and financial status after retirement
  • Caring for grandchildren
  • Caring for a sick spouse
  • Death of relatives, beloved or close friends
  • Deterioration of physical abilities and chronic illness
  • Worries for not being able to live independently
  • Worries for institutionalization

Common signs and symptoms of stress:

A. Physiological:

  • insomnia, nightmare
  • loss of appetite, palpitation
  • frequent urination
  • muscle pain and tiredness

B. Emotional and psychological:

  • anxiety, fear, frustration, depression
  • restlessness, poor concentration, forgetfulness

Stress management:

  • The elderly can share their difficulties and feelings in facing stress, and their way of coping, with those they can confide (e.g. relatives and friends). This helps to ventilate emotions and facilitate the learning of different strategies of coping with stress.
  • An active social life, healthy lifestyle and relaxation exercises are all useful ways to handle stress.
  • Engaging in volunteer work is a means to help those who are less fortunate. It also helps to boost self-confidence and broaden one's outlook in life.
  • Positive thinking, such as appreciating one's achievements and strengths, can help to enhance self-confidence and to cope with stress.
  • The elderly can seek help from professionals in case of need. Smoking, drinking and substance abuse are harmful and should never be used as ways to cope with stress.