January of 2023 will be International Quality Of Life Month around the world, and that makes it a great time to consider just what the quality of life is for our senior loved ones. In many cases, senior parents live right in the homes of their adult children and receive care from them in their later years. Of course, if poor health is an issue, it will be harder for them to enjoy a decent quality of life, but there are always things that can be done to make life more enjoyable, regardless of circumstances. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what the quality of life is like for a senior loved one, and offer some suggestions for improvement.
Senior quality of life
If you were to ask a number of seniors what their quality of life is, you would undoubtedly get a whole slew of different answers. These responses would depend largely on their health status, the level of stress in their lives, or their living arrangements. In some cases, their answer might also depend on how they’re treated by loved ones since the relationship is not always a loving one. When seniors become a burden, financially or otherwise, it’s very possible that relations become strained with adult children, and their quality of life can then plummet. This can be the single most stressful condition impacting a senior’s quality of life, but there are certainly other factors as well that can come into play.
Factors affecting quality of life
Generally speaking, these are the aspects of a senior’s living conditions that have the biggest impact on quality of life:
- Social connections – humans are basically social creatures, and we always tend to thrive when we are interacting with others. The more social connections we have, the less anxiety and depression will creep in, and the happier an individual will be. Seniors are especially impacted by loneliness, often having lost loved ones or spouses, and sometimes troubled by dementia. These things can severely limit social connectedness.
- Cognitive abilities – as people age, the risk of dementia increases dramatically, and that entails confusion, loss of memory, and a general inability to make decisions that are safe and beneficial. This can be a frightening time for a senior, because their whole world seems to be upset, and nothing fits into place like it once did.
- Medical and physical condition – anyone who suffers a permanent physical disability or a medical condition that limits their physical capabilities will undergo a significant reduction in quality of life. This can cause a person to lose access to former friends, the ability to come and go as they please, go shopping, or enjoy a vacation. It can even impact their ability to bathe, dress, and feed themselves.
- Independence – when a senior becomes physically incapacitated or suffers a loss of cognitive ability, the first thing affected is their independence. They can no longer do things for themselves but must rely on loved ones or caretakers to supply their needs. That can be a devastating blow to a senior individual because independence is one of the most personal qualities everyone has, and losing it can be heartbreaking.
There are other factors influencing a senior’s quality of life as well, but these are the most prominent ones, and they’re the ones most often cited by seniors with regard to their quality of life.
How senior quality of life can be improved
One of the most important ways that a senior’s quality of life can be improved is by making them feel needed and giving them a sense of purpose. It happens very often that when a person becomes older, it is felt that they can no longer contribute to society or to the family and that their input is not needed. This attitude is often adopted by the seniors themselves when it becomes the prevailing attitude in their environment. All this can be reversed to some extent by including them in family matters, seeking their advice and input on issues, and engaging them in family matters.
Since seniors are particularly susceptible to depression, it’s important to recognize the tell-tale signs of it and to do whatever is possible to counteract it. When family members recognize this depressed state, medical help should be sought so that steps can be taken to minimize the negative feelings overwhelming a senior. Something that can be done by loved ones is to involve your parent in daily activities around the house because when they are busy and contributing, they won’t have time to slip back into depression. They will also feel better about themselves because they still have usefulness and a purpose in life.
To overcome the loneliness factor, involve your parent in social groups or community programs designed for seniors. When your loved one realizes there are many others in a similar situation, they can open up and share their own experiences, as well as provide support to others who need it. At home, embarking on a program of regular physical exercise can do wonders for a senior’s attitude and outlook. The short-term benefits are that more endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormones) will be released into their system to provide an uplifting feeling. The long-term benefits are that it will help to maintain their physical condition and make them feel better for the future.