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Healthy self-esteem is rarely thought of as people get older, and negative stereotypes often accompany aging adults. Physical health, family, income, and retirement are all considered as people age, but self-esteem seldom enters the mix. As a result, older adults might not realize how they view themselves has changed until that view is no longer positive. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone, and there are easy steps you can take to boost your confidence as you get older.
Aging and self-esteem are often closely linked because the older people get, the more likely they are to experience lower self-esteem. Changes in physical appearance, as well as physical and mental health, are all associated with aging. These changes tend to lead to a noticeable difference in self-esteem as people enter their 60s and 70s.
A few factors play into self-esteem and aging, such as physical appearance. Some physical traits we’ve grown used to can change as we age, like our skin, hair, body weight, and muscle mass. Watching these parts of ourselves change can be a jarring experience.
Another link between aging and self-esteem is how we receive validation and find purpose because people often associate success with work and status. But as we get older and retire from the workforce, we may need to reassess how we measure our success to see the value in other aspects of life — like spending time with family and friends or mastering new skills.
Physical challenges, health problems, and new life milestones can also play a part in self-esteem and aging. Retirement may mean lifestyle changes, and older adults could experience the onset of health issues or the loss of loved ones. Loneliness is a large factor in self-esteem, especially for older adults who may not go out as often as they used to.
Higher self-esteem is closely related to several benefits. It encourages a better life outlook, lower likelihood of depression, and better physical and mental health. Healthy self-esteem gives older adults a sense of control over their lives, which can contribute to a greater sense of well-being and the ability to adapt as life changes take place.
In addition to its numerous health benefits, higher self-esteem can offer a major confidence boost because when you feel good, it positively affects nearly every area of your life. Relationships can improve, and you might even find that you enjoy hobbies and projects more than ever.
There are several ways older adults can actively foster high self-esteem and confidence as they age, no matter what new experiences come their way. New goals, cultivating social connections, and maintaining a positive outlook, for example, can go a long way to ensuring that your self-esteem rises as you enter your golden years.
Keep in mind that self-esteem is unique to each person, and these strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. You may find that some apply to you and some don’t — choose the ones that work for you, but don’t feel like you have to try them all.
One of the best ways to improve mental health is to maintain relationships and a healthy social life with friends and family. Loneliness is a common problem for all age groups — from young adults to those in middle age, but it can become more prominent for older adults who experience the loss of loved ones. Making time to connect with the people around you can do wonders for feeling valued. Reach out to family members and friends, and consider setting up weekly phone calls or a monthly lunch date to stay connected.
But relationships don’t always have to be with other people, and research shows that interacting with animals can increase a person’s sense of well-being, decrease loneliness, and reduce stress. If you don’t already have pets, take a trip to your local animal shelter to find a new friend, volunteer to care for foster animals, or look into organizations that pair older adults with companion animals.
Cultivating hobbies and interests is a wonderful way to boost confidence at any age — and this is especially true for older adults. Hobbies can give people a reason out of the house, and depending on the hobby, this can be an excellent opportunity to interact with others who have similar interests.
Some people lose hobbies as they age and may be delighted to pick them up again after they retire and have more time on their hands for things they enjoy. Others could find adventure or novelty in trying new things, such as cooking, crafts, or art. Hobbies that involve creating things can provide a sense of satisfaction upon completion, which also improves self-image.
Join a book club, study topics you’re interested in, or take a cooking class so you can make good food for friends and family. Puzzles and brainteasers increase cognitive abilities, and they’re a great activity to do with a friend or while listening to audiobooks and podcasts.
Exercise, whether it’s a long stroll, posture exercises, or something more intense, increases well-being and improves physical health. Even a leisurely walk around the neighborhood is a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy life. Set goals for yourself to keep you interested in exercising, and don’t forget to celebrate each time you meet one of your targets.
A healthy diet is linked to emotional health. Processed, ready-to-eat foods, as well as sugars, could have a negative effect on the way we think — and on the body’s energy levels. Fruits and vegetables are fuel for the body and the mind, and meal replacements can make it easier to get the essential nutrients bodies need.
Incontinence is another aspect of life that can lead to lower self-esteem in older people. Incontinence issues in the elderly can feel embarrassing and isolating, but they don't have to. Incontinence isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s a health issue that people can learn to manage discreetly. By learning to accept incontinence issues, you can overcome many of the negative feelings associated with it.
Try the bladder protection quiz to learn more about what you can do regarding incontinence. As with all ailments, you are not alone. Try finding social support through a community of people with similar experiences, where you can talk freely, learn how to manage your condition, and build relationships — all of which will help you create a positive self-image.
If you’re struggling to move around in your home, you might feel frustrated or discouraged. Things that were once simple, such as climbing up or down stairs or perhaps taking a shower, can become real chores.
Installing safety implements in your home can help with mobility and other essential tasks. This will give you the freedom to stop focusing on the difficulty of a task and instead allow you to focus on enjoying your life through fostering new hobbies and connecting with the people you love.
It can be easy to let negative thoughts float through your mind, but learning how to turn your negative thoughts into thoughts of gratitude and positivity helps increase happiness — and when you feel happier, self-esteem increases.
There are plenty of ways to cultivate gratitude in your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you feel grateful for each day, like a phone call with a friend or a really good book you were recommended. You could also try creating more gratitude through prayer or meditation. Combating negative thinking is all about learning to focus on the things that make you happy instead of the things that make you feel bad, and that process can look different for everyone.
Dress in the clothes you feel good in and items you enjoy wearing. Whether that’s brightly colored dresses and snazzy button-up shirts or comfy t-shirts and your favorite pair of jeans, dressing the way you want can be a major confidence boost for older adults. Even on a budget, there are many ways to find great-looking clothes for less — head to your local thrift store or keep an eye out for deals at online stores.
Practicing good hygiene in your daily life is another way to maintain high levels of self-esteem and improve your quality of life.
Journaling is a great hobby to reduce stress, as it allows you to express yourself freely and without judgment. Many people find that once they’ve written out their emotions, they have a more positive attitude and can process their emotions in a healthy way — or let them go entirely.
Other stress-reducing activities may involve meditative breathing, yoga and tai chi, golf, or going for walks. These are low-impact exercises that focus on movement and breathing. Consider taking a movement class in your community to meet new people, learn a new skill, and relieve stress in one fell swoop.
Self-esteem and aging are closely linked, and while changes and challenges come with growing older, you don’t have to let them bring you down. There are a wide variety of actionable steps you can take to ensure you maintain healthy self-esteem and enjoy all the special moments life has to offer.
Does your loved one struggle with incontinence? Take our bladder protection quiz and get a free starter pack to try.
American Psychological Association (APA). (2010). Low self-esteem linked to mental health problems and higher risk of physical health problems. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/04/self-esteemNational Institutes of Health (NIH). (2018). The power of pets: Health benefits of human-animal interactions. Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-petsBaylor College of Medicine. (2020). A perfect match: The health benefits of jigsaw puzzles. Retrieved from https://blogs.bcm.edu/2020/10/29/a-perfect-match-the-health-benefits-of-jigsaw-puzzles/Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier