Updated April 25, 2021 – When you think of your elderly parents or grandparents, you want to picture them happy, fulfilled, and enjoying life. However, as they age, many factors in their lives can change. Problems with physical or health-related challenges, as well as decline in cognitive function all can put elderly at greater risk of losing their quality of life.
What are the top factors affecting the quality of life of elderly adults?
1. Health Care Issues
Quality of life in anyone, including elderly adults can be severely impacted if they are in chronic pain or undergoing medical treatments and also if they are dealing with depression, anxiety or other psychological problems.
2. Social Issues
Many seniors find themselves in social isolation because of mobility issues or they are aging in place in a home that does not have easy access to community events and activities or many other factors that could contribute to their isolation.
Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
These issues can greatly impact an older adult’s quality of life.
3. Home Environment
Living in a home environment that is unsafe and/or uncomfortable can easily create or contribute to depression, anxiety, social isolation and of course – injury.
Many older adults try their best to age in place in their own home but they neglect to modify the home or consider the location of the home and how that will impact them in their later years.
I have a friend who retired to a small town in New Mexico. She and her husband enjoyed their first few years there but as their health began to decline they found themselves having to travel hours to a hospital for proper medical care.
It’s important to consider these issues when deciding where to spend the rest of your years. After all, being comfortable in your lifestyle will go a long way to giving you a wonderful quality of life.
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What Factors Determine A Good Quality Of Life?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “quality of life” as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns.”
A good quality of life is more than just an arbitrary number. It’s about the things that make you happy, fulfill your needs and desires, and bring meaning to your existence. However, not everyone will agree on what makes a good quality of life.
The factors that determine a good quality of life for older people are different for each person – it could be anything from being able to take care of yourself without help to having physical or mental freedom. Some people might value family time and relationships while others might focus on their career or even hobbies outside the home. The important thing is figuring out what matters most in order to live as well as possible with any limitations you may have in mind.
Many different factors determine the quality of life for each person. Some of the concepts essential to figuring out someone’s positive and negative life aspects can include:
- Overall health and wellness
- Sleep Quality
- The person’s belief system (religion, faith, ideals, culturally, etc…)
- Their psychological state of mind
- Levels of activity and regular exercise – both physical and mental
- Social relationships, as well as their relationship with themselves and their environment
Further, a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health by Khaje-Bishak, et al, noted that “poor economic, cultural, educational and health care conditions and also inadequate social interactions can result in poor quality of life in elderly people.”
Every person’s quality of life is determined based on their situation. The elderly population are often faced with different challenges than other age groups because they have less mobility and more health issues.
However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy some aspects of living in retirement homes or assisted living facilities – many find it comforting to live among people who share similar struggles and experiences as themselves.
How Is Age Related To Quality Of Life?
One study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that our happiness and life satisfaction peaks around age 68. Other studies show similar results.
These studies are based on hundreds or thousands of adults, and there will always be outliers and people who do not fit that mold.
Instead, age-related quality of life is more of a guideline to show what national and international averages look like from a purely statistical and data-driven point of view.
Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.Groucho Marx
When an older adult can find that fulfilled groove or a way to improve their quality of life, it can be seen as a new chapter. This is a positive and healthy way to view the next “X amount” of years.
When you look at it in this way, satisfaction with life becomes less about the science behind the age and more about how the person approaches their advancing age and the time they have left.
How Can The Quality Of Life Be Improved In The Elderly?
There are a few ways that the quality of life in older adults be improved.
- Getting regular medical check ups and care
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Providing them with transportation options
- Utilizing tools and services to make life safer and easier
- Making their own homes / living environments more accessible and comfortable
- Ensuring they have positive social interactions and are involved in activities
No matter our age, we all need a sense of purpose. It moves our days forward, provides us aspirations to strive for, and it just feels good. Most humans like knowing that we’re needed or can help out in some way. Being useful can make a huge difference in one’s sense of self which impacts their quality of life.
It follows that when people retire, finding an activity in which we can feel useful is typically the first step toward finding a new purpose in life. But factors such as mobility issues and cognitive impairment can make that task much more difficult
However, this phase of life can also be an exciting time for the elderly because they have the chance to spark new passions, learn new skills, and find ways to feel useful through things like volunteering.
When a senior finds that sense of purpose, it improves their overall health and well-being. People who find no meaning in life or feel useless have a much harder time being active and working to maintain good health.
So how can the elderly feel useful and find further purpose?
- Start with small goals: Each day, look for little tasks or goals that are meaningful to you. Instead of broad strokes, think smaller – even little things can make an impact. When you can check something off a list, that “win” helps to keep you motivated.
- Find activities that positively affect others: Maybe this means planting some flowers where fellow neighbors or members of the community can see them and smile. Maybe it’s helping to take care of a friend or family member’s pet while they are at work. Anything that offers a helping hand or helps improve someone else’s day will, in turn, improve your day as well. Along those lines, volunteering is a great way to stay active and feel a sense of purpose and passion.
As you can imagine, there will not be a one-size-fits-all answer to how to give the elderly a purpose. Seniors need to explore what is most meaningful to them and what they would like to accomplish in their golden years.
Doing this will help them find true purpose rather than a cookie-cutter solution that may not feel as fulfilling to them as it does to others.
Preventing Social Isolation In The Elderly
If we can agree that loneliness is a problem for everyone, then it seems like older adults may be especially susceptible to social isolation and the problems associated with it such as health issues, depression, memory loss, and even early death.
One study found that lonely seniors who were socially isolated for more than three weeks had increased risk of death by 28%. Since this can be so detrimental, it’s important to find ways to prevent social isolation in the elderly.
Here are some great tips for preventing that pitfall of elderly social isolation:
- Transportation: Figure out a system for elderly friends and family to help them with their transportation needs. Offering to go to the store for them is great, but if they are physically capable, helping them get out and into a social atmosphere is even better.
- Family meals: Encourage family meals and outings with the senior. Mealtime is ideal for getting everyone together. And for the elderly who may not have as much social interaction every day, a simple dinner with family can brighten their entire week.
- Find specific social activities: It’s one thing to get dragged to a group activity like a book club at simply because there is nothing else to do. It’s another to go because the person loves arts and crafts and wants to meet other people and possible new friends who enjoy these activities too. Finding those specific activities that speak to the older adult will make it more encouraging to attend and be social.
How To Keep Seniors Mentally Active
It’s a dangerous thing when our minds become inactive. Boredom and lack of stimulation can easily lead to depression and further cognitive decline.
Being mentally active and being challenged daily with a variety of brain games will help an elderly person stay sharp and in a better state of mind.
Here are some great ideas for seniors who need a boost in mental stimulation:
- Play board games or work on puzzles, such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles
- Write down the book that’s been rolling around in your head for years, or journal about your life, current events, or wisdom you’d like your heirs to know.
- Read the books you have always wanted to read, but never got around to.
- Play an instrument (or learn a new one).
- Exercise and stay strong with core exercises for seniors, yoga, tai chi, dance, or whatever you love. The University of Arizona has produced studies showing how exercise is not only crucial to our physical health, but also our mental well-being.
- Take classes – many colleges and universities now offer free courses to seniors (or finish that college degree you’ve always wanted to obtain).
For more ideas for staying mentally active, check out our article on keeping elderly minds sharp.
Quality Of Life In Seniors
The phrase, “quality of life in seniors,” will mean different things to each elderly person. This is because we all have different perspectives, depending on our culture, overall health, social relationships, and beliefs.
The main thing to remember is that there are so many ways to help improve that quality of life.
Finding purpose by being of service to others, being socially engaged, getting regular physical activity and engaging in challenging mental activities will help seniors to find and maintain a fulfilling life for years to come.