Stress Reduction and Aging

The aged frequently experience a decrease in their ability to cope with the multiple stressors of life that can result in a waning of their capacity to adapt. The following is a review of several themes that are recommended by the researchers and that offer practical suggestions for those who are dealing with the excessiveness of life’s stressors.

Theme I – Progressive Relaxation

This is a method for stress reduction that is achieved through (1) tensing and relaxing of specific muscles or muscle groups, and (2) through imagery or recall of pleasant events or experiences.

Theme II – Meditation

Meditation is a form of relaxation and a means of coping with stress. The following are two in particular that are found in our western culture – Zen and transcendental meditation. Both are designed to induce a state of relaxation. However, it has also been suggested that to quiet the mind, practice and perseverance are necessary.

Theme III – Arranging One’s Environment

This is, according to one researcher, a means for reducing the potential for stress by taking advantage of a quiet environment, a place where one can take a momentary break to contemplate or to re-energize.

Stress arises not only from worry, anger, expectations and demands, but also from loneliness, noise or lighting. Occasionally, getting lost in some creative pursuit is an excellent way for dealing with stress. For some it can be knitting, whereas others may find painting a pastoral scene as a way of lowering stress. Also, stroking and petting the family’s pet or simply watching fish with assorted exotic colors and shapes in an aquarium can serve as a unique form of stress reduction.

Theme IV – Environmental Sensitivity

The physical components of environmental sensitivity are air, water and land mass. These are but three examples in which the elderly individual’s health and wellness can either be enhanced or limited. The researcher States, declares, “These environmental components that the elderly may rely on are (1) the security of their home and concern for their belongings, and (2) a familiarity with neighborhood and friendly others. However if there is a ‘crush’ on destruction of any one of these levels, it can with time, determine the older individual’s response to either wellness or illness.”

Theme V – Personal Space

According to the researcher Brighton, “Personal space refers to the aged person who may either be living in the community or an institution and is unaware of the concept of personal space that can reinforce a state of wellness.” The following are several examples of personal space:

  • a sunlit porch with comfortable seating and a moment of stillness;
  • relaxing before a wintry fireplace and perhaps with a glass of wine;
  • finding a secluded reading corner or nook at home;
  • engaging in conversation with a friend or relative of a similar generation;
  • enjoying the natural occurrence of a rainbow after a storm and contemplating its significance.

Instead of watching the aged individual languish, it becomes the caregiver’s role to aid the person and advise him about the opportunities that afford a better and healthier environment.

One example of this philosophy is when a nursing facility encourages the prospective resident to bring with them meaningful items to their new home as a way of recreating a familiar home environment for their mental and physical comfort.

Theme VI – Energy and Conservation

The researcher Robles, suggests that “Energy conservation is an important environmental issue that may well influence the health and continued wellness of an admitted resident, thereby reducing nagging stress issues.” For example, body heat and the comfort it offers can be adequately maintained by donning several layers of clothing with additional use of blankets at night. However, the aged individual who resides in a facility can have difficulty tolerating a sharp temperature drop. And if that drop continues, it can quickly cause bodily discomfort, progressive stress and complaints to a family member.

The following is a case study about Sally, an eighty-five year old woman who has been attempting to understand about several age-related changes she’s been experiencing which were causing her extreme stress and anxiety. Here are her musings about her stress. “Strange how these things creep up on you. I was really surprised and upset when I first realized it was not the headlights on my car that were growing dim but rather my aging night vision. Then I remembered how other bits of awareness became clear and forced me to recognize that I, that sixteen-year-old in me was now experiencing those normal changes that go along with getting old.”

Quotable Quote: “Avoid adopting other people’s negative views.”
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