Tri-County Mental Health Services offering behavioral health services for the Kansas City Northland community. Prevention, assessment and treatment services for individuals and families throughout Clay, Platte and Ray counties of Missouri.

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Tri-County Mental Health Services Older Adult Educator Becky Franklin recently met with residents of Wexford Place to share practical ideas for older adults to maximize mental and physical health.

Good Advice for Older Adults: Engage as You Age!

The “silver tsunami” represented by America’s aging population demands an emphasis on preventative physical and mental health, Tri-County Mental Health Services’ older adult educator said recently.

Addressing residents of Wexford Place in Kansas City North, Becky Franklin, LPC, noted that older adults are the fastest growing age group in the country. Each year, millions across the country – and thousands in the Northland – face challenges traditionally associated with aging bodies and minds.

One of Franklin’s key messages is that many of these “traditional” issues can be avoided or minimized. “Set yourself up for success,” she said. “We can learn and grow throughout life.”

The single most important step may be exercise and activity. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a miracle drug for aging,” she said. “But physical activity is probably as close as you can get.” Besides the obvious physical benefits, activity helps with everything from mood to fall prevention and disease reduction.

Another important practice for older adults is socializing. “Being around other people is important, even to things like your immunity to disease,” Franklin said. “It also gives you people to bounce ideas off, so you don’t spiral into a negative outlook.”

Socializing doesn’t need to involve large, planned events. “Meals, games or even just discussing current events are socializing,” she said, noting studies by the National Institute of Health. “Although it looks like we’re just sitting there, we’re using a lot of our brain skills.”

Many older adults face depression, and Franklin was quick to emphasize the difference between normal mood swings and chronic depression. “It’s not the same as the mood fluctuations we all experience,” she said. “All of us will have times that we feel happy or feel sad. Depression is ongoing; it’s more consistent.”

Symptoms for serious depression can be confusing. “Diagnosing depression can be tricky,” she said. “It may include loss of sleep or sleeping all the time.”

If there is a possibility of serious depression, the best solution is often to seek help from a physician, organizations like Tri-County, church pastor or staff. “The key is to speak out and seek help,” she said. “Help is available, and it’s very effective.”

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