Stress & Seniors: FAQ

Yoga session at Cumberland Village
Sara Hinson

Sara Hinson

What’s your trigger? Everyone has experienced stress at some point in their lives. The loss of a job, the death of a spouse, even joyous events such as getting married or having children can cause stress. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely amped up stress levels for millions of people. But at particular risk from the effects of this pressure are seniors. Physical changes during the aging process can alter the way the body responds to stress. Following are some common questions related to seniors and stress. 

What is Stress?

Stress can best be defined as the body’s response to any real or perceived demand or challenge resulting in physical, emotional, or psychological strain. While it’s impossible to eliminate all sources of stress, how we cope with pressure has a critical impact on health. 

What are the Signs of Stress Among Seniors?

Stress manifests itself in different ways. But some of the most common indicators of stress, especially among older adults, include sleep disturbances, a lack of concentration, and a change in appetite. Physiological responses include digestive issues, headaches, backaches, and chest pain. 

How Does Stress Affect Seniors?

Stress affects seniors in unique ways. The ability of the body to release stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, declines with age. In addition, heart and lung function tend to decline as well, making natural responses more labored. 

What Are the Health Risks of Stress to Seniors?

When stress responses are triggered for long periods of time, the risk increases for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, poor immune function, diabetes, and asthma, among others. And there might be something to that old adage that stress causes gray hairs and wrinkles—studies have shown that chronic stress may accelerate the aging process at the cellular level. 

How Can Seniors Manage Stress?

No matter the cause of worries and strife, the key to mitigating their effects is through self-care. Some ways to manage stress include the following:

  1. Physical Activity. Any form of exercise is beneficial to the body, but those that incorporate a mind-body connection are especially useful in reducing stress, such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi. 
  1. Meditation. A regular meditation practice is one of the best ways to combat stress, as sitting in a relaxed position and focusing your mind triggers the body’s relaxation response.
  1. Breathing Exercises. It may sound strange, but there are different ways to breathe. Deep, controlled breathing exercises, often recommended to people who experience panic attacks, are the kind that can help reduce stress. This way to control your metabolism sends a message to the brain to slow down and relax. 
  1. Puzzles. The cognitive benefits of puzzles, crosswords, and other brain games have long been documented. But did you know they can also help reduce stress? Engaging in a task that requires focus distracts your mind from the stress triggers and strengthens cognitive function, making it easier to handle mental strain when it presents itself.

Reducing Senior Stress at Cumberland Village 
Whether working a jigsaw puzzle with friends or walking in solitude around the beautiful grounds, reducing stress at Cumberland Village is easy. Our staff understand that a healthy mind means a healthy body, and we do whatever it takes to support residents in keeping their stress at bay.

The Hills