Expert advice for seniors to manage stress and anxiety

Help is on hand for the elderly facing challenges. File image.

Help is on hand for the elderly facing challenges. File image.

Published Feb 7, 2024


With age comes wisdom but experts warn that getting older comes with its own challenges. They explain that life can bring its own set of challenges and stressors for senior citizens, but help is on hand.

"Fortunately, there are various strategies and techniques seniors can incorporate into their daily routines to help manage stress and anxiety effectively," Affinity Health CEO Murray Hewlett said.

He explained that these are the factors that can contribute to higher levels of stress and anxiety in some seniors:

Health concerns

As individuals age, they may face more significant health issues, chronic conditions and physical discomfort.

“These health concerns can be a source of stress and anxiety,” Hewlett said.

Loss and grief

The elderly often experience the loss of loved ones, including friends and family members. Hewlett said that coping with grief and adjusting to life changes can be emotionally challenging.

Financial worries

Managing finances in retirement or surviving on a fixed income can be stressful, especially if unexpected expenses arise, Hewlett added.

Social isolation

Seniors may become socially isolated due to factors like retirement, physical limitations, or the loss of friends and family members, the Affinity Health CEO warned.

Changes in independence

He cautioned that the elderly may experience a loss of independence or the need for assistance with daily activities.

“This shift in lifestyle can lead to feelings of anxiety and loss of control,” Hewlett said.

Cognitive changes

Cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia, can be distressing for seniors and for their loved ones.

Concerns about the future

Seniors may worry about their future, including long-term care, end-of-life planning, and the burden they might place on their families, Hewlett explained.


Some medications commonly prescribed to seniors can have side effects that contribute to feelings of anxiety or stress.

Ways for seniors to manage stress and anxiety:

Stay physically active

Hewlett said exercise can benefit seniors as endorphins – naturally occurring mood enhancers that enhance well-being and lessen worry – are released when people move their bodies.

“Seniors can choose from a range of exercises that suit their fitness level and physical condition, such as walking, swimming, tai chi or yoga.”

He added that engaging in physical activity also offers seniors other health benefits including improved cardiovascular health, better sleep quality, and increased mobility.

Practise relaxation techniques

To calm the mind, seniors can consider incorporating relaxation techniques into daily routines, such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.

“Deep breathing entails taking slow, deep breaths, while mindfulness meditation encourages focusing on the present moment,” he said.

“There are many resources available, including books, online videos, and classes, that can guide seniors in learning and practising these relaxation techniques.”

Maintain a healthy diet

Nutrient-rich diets can improve mood and lower stress levels.

“Seniors should eat a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats,” Hewlett said.

He added that foods which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, can help stabilise mood.

“Whole grains include complex carbohydrates that can increase serotonin levels, which contribute to emotions of pleasure and well-being.”

Hewlett warned that caffeine and alcohol should be limited or avoided, as they can worsen anxiety and significantly impair sleep quality.

Foster social connections

Maintaining social relationships is critical for seniors who are dealing with loneliness and social isolation. Hewlett said seniors should make an effort to maintain contact with friends and family members, in person or virtually.

“Joining social clubs, volunteering, or participating in group activities that align with personal interests can provide opportunities for seniors to build new friendships and strengthen existing ones.”

Seek professional help

Therapists and counsellors can offer useful advice and assistance in dealing with stress and anxiety.

“Therapy may provide seniors with a secure environment in which to share their feelings, develop coping methods, and gain insight into the underlying reasons of their stress and worry,” Hewlett said.

“Medication administered by a health-care practitioner may be required in some circumstances to ease symptoms and enhance general well-being.”

Maintain a structured routine

A planned daily routine can create a feeling of stability and predictability, which can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

“Seniors should set aside time for regular mealtimes, exercise, social engagements, and sleep,” Hewlett said. “A schedule not only helps seniors keep organised, but it also allows them to make time for things that they like and find significant.”