Financial pressures impact us all at some point in our lives. Seniors today face unique life conditions that can contribute to their stress. Stress, in turn, has physical manifestations and negative consequences that affect their health.
There is evidence of a direct link between financial stress and physical and mental health. Whether we are worried about job security or our investment portfolio, stress is ubiquitous. Stress is also a risk factor for many chronic diseases, and it can also prevent you from caring for your health adequately. Therefore, minimizing stress should be a top priority.
Causes of Financial Stress in Older Adults
A study by the Federal Reserve found that for adults over the age of 60, the following represented the most common causes of stress.
- Wage reduction - retirement - adequacy of savings
Stress will manifest in different ways depending on the individual. However, some common symptoms of stress include:
- Frequent headaches
- Digestive issues
- Chest pain and heart palpitations
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Loss of desire for life or will to live
Regarding behavioral manifestations, stress propels seniors to unhealthy coping mechanisms including alcohol, smoking, over-medicating, and consumption of unhealthy foods. Research has linked older adults experiencing stress with increases in these types of activities.
Taking Steps to Solve the Financial Issues
This must begin with a problem-focused strategy. It can be broken down into four basic steps.
- Analyzing the situation – To determine the baseline financial condition, list all the financial burdens and assets including income, expenses, debt and predicted future changes.
- Creating a Plan of Action – This includes limited spending, increase income, changes to living arrangements and lifestyle.
- Implementing a Budget – Keep to the budget as close as possible.
- Review – Is the plan working? Have any situations changed? Once you've worked it out, make needed changes and return and review the plan periodically.
Effectively Coping with Stress
It is important to deal with both the cause and effect of stress. Understanding how stress affects the mind and the body. Whether from any of the hundreds of websites, community organizations, as well as, counselors and psychologists, deal with stress, there are many places for seniors to seek help with stress. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Stay active - Research shows that regular exercise is helpful to the mind and the body.
- Avoid poor lifestyle choices - Maintaining healthy eating habits is essential for nutrition and to combat the mental impact of stress. Don't fall into bad habits like smoking or drinking excess alcohol as these just contribute to poor health and have been linked to mental illness.
- Get together with family and friends - Staying connected during times of stress is helpful as it decreases feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The current economic state, coupled with inadequate planning means that seniors are experiencing more stress than previous generations. Financial planning designed to help seniors manage their assets are critical. However, it is also important to include strategies that aim to promote the health of seniors and offer emotional support during these times.
- Sally Writes