Researchers at Concordia University have discovered that improving self-esteem is an effective preventative health measure, and that declining self-esteem in seniors increases cortisol levels in seniors. Excess cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is associated with several health issues. Anyone providing care for elders should take factors affecting self-esteem into account and find ways to increase self-esteem in seniors.
Solicit Their Advice
Seniors have wisdom and knowledge gained from a lifetime of experience. Caregivers and family members have much to gain by asking seniors for advice and seniors gain a boost in self-esteem by feeling appreciated. Ask seniors their opinion about current events, their favorite music, and their recommendations reading. Knowing someone values your opinion, even if they disagree with it, increases engagement and helps boost self-esteem.
Too often, seniors buy in to stereotypes of frailty or reduced cognitive function that may not be true of them as individuals. Provide reassurance that many seniors remain active and engaged well beyond age 80, and that normal declines in hearing and vision are nothing to be ashamed of—instead, they should simply be accommodated.
Support Self-Care and Style
Seniors often become nervous about losing their balance and strength. Help seniors locate appropriately modified fitness routines that improve balance, find safe places to take a walk (with appropriate social distancing), or learn relaxation techniques. Family members and friends can give a gift of a new blouse or sweater, a stylish scarf, or a colorful cane to brighten a senior’s wardrobe and their mood. Encourage seniors to keep up with personal hygiene—getting up, getting dressed, and applying make-up or doing their hair each day gives self-esteem and confidence a boost.
Losing the ability to drive or ascend stairs unassisted can cause a slump in self-esteem. Help seniors appreciate areas where they retain their independence—perhaps they can still safely cook for themselves, maintain a Facebook page to stay up to date with friends and family, sew, knit, write, or paint.
Isolation and loneliness are serious issues for elders, particularly now during enforced social distancing. It is more important than ever to help seniors find ways to stay connected with friends and family during this prolonged period of physical distancing. Give a check-in call, send a new jigsaw puzzle with contactless delivery, or buy them a new bestselling book they can discuss with in their next family Zoom meetup. There are many ways to boost self-esteem in seniors. The important thing is to be aware that self-esteem is a health issue for seniors and should be part of wellness checks.