How to Stay Mentally Healthy as We Age

Even with the miracle of modern medicine, growing old is not a given. Seeing our “golden years” requires work. Eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are all part of the physical preparation for living longer. Staying mentally sharp is equally important.

The challenges that come with aging – physical limitations, chronic health conditions, and social isolation – can harm our mental health. But there are steps seniors can take to stay mentally strong and maintain their overall well-being.

Below are some commonsense approaches that will help seniors continue to live fulfilling lives.

Staying sharp

  1. Stay physically active — Physical activity is not only good for your physical health, but also your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and reduce stress. According to the NIA, older adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical fitness per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Here are some activities you can do at any age.
  2. Stay socially engaged — Isolation can have a negative impact on mental health, so it's important for seniors to stay engaged. This can involve joining a social group, volunteering, or simply spending time with friends and family. Social support can help seniors cope with stress and improve their overall well-being.
  3. Practice mindfulness — Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment, without judgment. This can help seniors reduce stress, thereby improving health. Mindfulness techniques can include meditation, deep breathing, or simply taking a few moments to focus on the present moment. Mindfulness can improve mental health and cognitive functioning in older adults.
  4. Maintain a healthy diet — Eating a healthy diet can also have a positive impact on mental health. A healthy diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks is also recommended.
  5. Seek professional help if needed — If seniors are experiencing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, it's important to seek professional help. According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental health treatment can be highly effective for seniors, and there are a variety of treatment options available.

We Are Here to Help

We offer short-term therapy to help you overcome any challenge. Our behavioral health clinicians speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you cope with life stressors. We can also link you to mental health services if you need long-term therapy. Call our Behavioral Health team today at (855) 425-1777 to learn more about our services.

Our AltaMed Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) also offers Behavioral Health services. The PACE Behavioral Health team includes multi-lingual, licensed staff along with a Board-Certified Chaplain. These providers work with your care team to identify a behavioral care plan. For more information, speak with your medical provider or click here.

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Woman And Doctor Senior Screenings

Grow Healthy at Every Age with Recommended Health Screenings for Seniors

Thanks in large part to improved medical care and changes in how most of us work, people are living longer. Someone born today is expected to live until they’re 77.8 years old.

How well you age depends largely on how well you live. A big part of that includes getting regular preventive health screenings for general physical health, cancer, and mental capacity.

 No matter how old you are, AltaMed can help you grow healthy with caring, attentive service and age-appropriate care. Read on to learn about the screenings and routine visits that are recommended for seniors. 

Doctor Holding Patients Hand

Physical Screenings

Screenings can help you stay on top of chronic illnesses: if you do have a condition, it’s best to catch it early as treatment might not need to be as aggressive or invasive, and costs could be less. 

Recommended physical screenings include:

  • Blood pressure — Almost half of all adults have high blood pressure, so it’s important to have yours checked at least once a year (or as often as your doctor recommends).
  • Cholesterol — Many people are able to reduce their cholesterol with a healthy diet and exercise, but sometimes medication is needed. 
  • Obesity — Being obese is hard on the heart, liver, and joints and puts you at risk for serious conditions.
  • Blood glucose and Type 2 Diabetes — Medicare covers screenings in people with one or more risk factors.
  • Vision Your eyes change with age  and you run the risk of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm — This is a standard check of the heart for men 65 to 75, who have smoked.
  • Osteoporosis — Bone-density tests are covered once every two years for women over 65. Post-menopausal women younger than 65 should also be screened.
  • Hepatitis C — Medicare covers at least one screening for adults born specifically between 1945 and 1965.
  • HIV — Older adults at higher risk include people with multiple partners, men who have had sex with other men, and people with past and present injection drug use.
  • Other STIs — Sexually active adults at all ages should be screened regularly.
Doctor Talking to His Patient

Cancer screenings

Age is a leading risk factor in a number of cancer types, though it’s not really clear why. So, it’s incredibly important to get screened. A number of cancers are easily detectible and can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

  • Colorectal cancer — Routine screening should start at 50 unless there is a family history. Then it should be earlier and more often. Otherwise, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
  • Breast cancer — Medicare covers screening mammograms every 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer — Older women who have never been screened should have a Pap smear at least once. Women at high risk should have one every 12 months. 
  • Lung cancer This screening is recommended for adults aged 55-80 who were heavy smokers (about 30-packs a year) or who quit in the last 15 years.
  • Prostate cancer — Men can choose between a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen test. Screenings are recommended between 55 and 69 years of age.
Women Looking at a Cell Phone

Mental and safety screenings

When your AltaMed doctor asks questions about your life and what’s been on your mind, it’s not just to be polite: they may be looking for clues about your mood, mental state, and mental sharpness. These are delicate topics, but your answers can help identify:

  • Depression — The goal is to make sure you are not on a path that could lead to harming yourself or others. Therapy, medication, or a combination can help control depression.
  • Cognitive impairment — Cognitive Impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life, and ranges from mild to severe. Doctors want to ensure you can still function in your current living situation. This may require input from a caregiver.
  • Falls and functional ability — Part of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit includes looking at the ability to manage the activities of daily living. Doctors will ask questions about mobility and the risk of falling which could lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or breaking a hip, wrist, or some other joint. 
  • Substance use — Someone who has been drinkingsmoking or doing drugs their entire life will eventually pay the price for it. Answer honestly about alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use.

PACE Yourself with AltaMed

Making these screenings a regular part of your healthy habits could help you feel great and stay independent for longer. Talk to your doctor to get their personalized recommendations.

If you’re a caregiver or a senior with complex medical needs, AltaMed PACE offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services. The program even offers meals, exercise, social activities, and transportation for qualified seniors. 

There are 11 AltaMed PACE facilities in the greater Los Angeles area including two new locations in Orange County:

1325 N. Anaheim Blvd., Suite 100
Anaheim, California 92801

Santa Ana
3601 W. Sunflower Ave., Suite 100
Santa Ana, California 92704

AltaMed PACE has made a difference for seniors like Antonio, Kenneth, and Rodolfo and Bertha – it may be right for you, too. 

For more information about services or eligibility, visit or call (855) 252-PACE (7223).


Alzheimer’s Symptoms to Watch For

Nearly everyone has watched an older relative struggle to recall a name, date, or story. As we age, memory loss becomes more common. That’s normal. We can’t stay sharp forever.

Yet, it may be more serious if a loved one gets lost at a store you visit frequently, begins repeating themselves often, forgets a fond memory, or fails to complete a simple task without help. These could all be signs of dementia. Dementia is a general term, but its most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.

Facts and Figures

In 2020 as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people living with this disease doubles every five years past age 65. Symptoms first appear around age 60 and the risk increases as we get older.

Alzheimer’s involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. It’s progressive and can affect the ability to carry on conversations or perform daily activities.

It is the sixth leading cause of death among U.S. adults and the fifth leading cause of death among adults 65 and older.

Signs of Alzheimer’s

Most people notice changes in themselves before anyone else does. Sometimes, however, they don’t want to acknowledge those changes. In those instances, family and close friends should stay alert for the following and see a doctor for the cause of any one of these.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting events, relying on sticky notes to remember things, repeating oneself.
  2. Planning or solving problems becomes hard: it’s difficult to pay bills or cook familiar recipes.
  3. Hard to complete simple tasks: it’s difficult to make calls, drive, or shop.
  4. Confusion with time or place: can’t understand an event or confusing dates.
  5. Confusing images or spatial relationships: difficulty balancing, tripping on objects because distance is hard to judge, spilling and dropping things.
  6. New problems with speaking or writing words: becomes hard to join conversations or remember simple terms.
  7. Misplacing things: putting keys where they don’t belong, for example, and not being able to retrace steps to find them.
  8. Poor judgment: becoming victim to a scam, unable to care for a pet, or failing to clean oneself.
  9. Withdrawal from people: not doing normal activities because it’s too hard to keep up with what’s happening.
  10. Changes in personality: getting upset when inappropriate, being scared and/or suspicious.

Risk Factors

Doctors and researchers are still trying to fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. It seems people are affected differently, but there are some common factors:

  • Age — It most commonly affects people over age 65.
  • Genetics — Family history may play a role but it’s not a guarantee.
  • Lifestyle — Two studies have shown a connection to physical activity, a healthy diet, limited alcohol intake, and avoiding cigarettes to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The same lifestyle adjustments used to reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes may also slow or stop cognitive decline.
  • Race and ethnicityAfrican Americans and Hispanics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites.


There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but early diagnosis can help slow the progression of the disease. There are drug and non-drug options to help treat symptoms and possibly improve quality of life. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s will no longer be able to care for themselves.

Family members or friends caring for someone with Alzheimer’s often neglect their own health. It has been associated with:

  • Higher levels of depression and anxiety
  • Increased use of psychoactive medications
  • Worse self-reporting of health
  • A compromised immune system
  • Increased risk of early death

Care for Yourself and Your Aging Family Members

AltaMed is here for the lifetime of our patients — from pediatrics through senior care. We can also connect you with the appropriate social services to get you relief as a caregiver and find you programs to help your aging family member.

Our behavioral health team is available to talk to you about the pressures of caring for an older family member and help you with coping mechanisms. They can also connect you with a longer-term counselor should you need it. Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.

How to Stay Mentally Healthy as We Age