Anxiety disorders have a high prevalence among senior adults, significantly impacting their overall quality of life. Unfortunately, these disorders can lead to further health complications in this age group if left untreated. Several factors contribute to anxiety in older adults, including grief, loneliness, social isolation, financial concerns, dependence on others, and existing health conditions. Regrettably, anxiety disorders in seniors are often overlooked, with a greater focus on physical health and associated medications. However, it is vital to recognize the importance of mental health, especially for older adults. This article will explore effective strategies to reduce and relieve anxiety and enhance well-being in senior adults.

Role of Nurses in Relieving Anxiety in Senior Adults

Specialized care of senior adults: 

Many cases of anxiety disorders go untreated as people often overlook the option of seeking help from healthcare professionals. Nevertheless, it is advisable for seniors who experience common anxiety symptoms to consult a health professional. These professionals can offer assistance by alleviating stress and anxiety through a thorough diagnosis of the underlying factors, counseling, and when appropriate, prescribing suitable medications. 

Besides therapists, nurses play a vital role in helping senior adults cope with anxiety and identify symptoms to offer treatment. Nurses who have completed post masters nursing certificate programs acquire advanced training and expertise in geriatric care. Nurses with this certification can provide specialized assistance and support to seniors with anxiety and other mental health concerns. Moreover, these programs equip nurses with comprehensive knowledge to assess and address the mental health needs of senior adults, including anxiety management, medication management, and therapeutic interventions. They also collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, including psychologists, social workers, and physicians, to provide comprehensive care and develop personalized treatment plans for seniors.

Ways To Relieve Anxiety in Senior Adults

Establish Trust 

Patients usually feel anxious when they don’t know what is happening to them. So, being a nurse, it is important to talk to elderly patients and establish trust. This way, they will open up to you and discuss what is bothering them.

You can establish trust with them by:

  • Being friendly and non-judgmental
  • Talking to them
  • Review their diagnosis and explain it to them in easy words to help them understand
  • Ask them questions like ‘How are you feeling?’ to allow them to talk about themselves.

Moreover, sometimes a person needs someone to listen to them, and half of the problem goes away. Older patients are often lonely too, which can be a major cause of anxiety. So, listening to them can also help establish trust. Here are some ways you can do so:

  • Smile, nod, and be attentive when they are talking
  • Maintain proper body language
  • Sit down or stand closer to them  while listening

Encourage Them to Practice Breathing exercises 

Breathing exercises are an excellent way to help your patient relax. If your elderly patient seems visibly agitated or frustrated, you can help them practice breathing exercises. It will help them relax their mind and body. Deep breathing helps you take in more oxygen and activates the parasympathetic system, which helps them relax.

Physical Activity 

Older adults with anxiety commonly tend to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. However, regularly exercising can greatly improve their physical and mental well-being. Indulging in any physical activity not only enhances overall feelings of well-being but also aids in stress and anxiety reduction. This is due to the release of endorphins, endogenous cannabinoids, and other chemicals in the brain that promote a positive mood and alleviate anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, exercise and other physical activities also enhance memory function and improve blood flow to the brain.

You can encourage seniors to indulge in the following physical activities:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Gardening
  • Golf


Everyone knows how important a good diet is for our physical health, but it is also crucial for our mental health. Healthy food such as proteins, vegetables, and fruit can help fuel your brain and boost your mental health. Similarly, other items such as nicotine and caffeine can make you jittery and alleviate anxiety symptoms.

So, as a nurse, make sure you keep a check on the older adult’s diet. Also, prepare a proper diet plan for their family so that they also ensure that their seniors eat healthy.

Ensure a Proper Sleep Cycle

Lack of sleep or irregular sleep can also cause anxiety. So, if your elderly patient complains about sleep issues, you can educate them regarding the importance and effectiveness of maintaining a proper sleep routine.

Senior adults must prioritize getting adequate sleep, aiming for 6-8 hours per night. Sufficient sleep is essential for the proper functioning of their brain and body. Insufficient sleep can lead to exhaustion and restlessness throughout the day. Therefore, maintaining a healthy sleep cycle plays a significant role in alleviating anxiety.

Encourage social interaction 

If you feel your patient is anxious because of loneliness, you can encourage them to socialize. You can suggest whatever suits them, like going to the park, church, or joining a club. However, if the patient has limited mobility, you can advise their family members to visit them regularly. In cases where in-person meetings are not feasible, arranging video calls can be a great alternative. Additionally, encouraging them to join local senior groups and social clubs allows them to connect with individuals of their age who share similar interests. By engaging in social activities and enjoying the company of others, they can find joy in the simple pleasures of life. Avoiding prolonged solitude at home is important, as it can contribute to negative emotions and feelings.

Consult a Therapist or Psychologist

If you feel like the senior adult’s anxiety persists even after such interventions, being a nurse, it is necessary to convey this information to the relevant doctor. In such cases, the patient may suffer from an anxiety disorder requiring professional attention or medication. Similarly, the anxiety may have an underlying cause or maybe a side effect of a medication.  


Elderly patients may feel anxious for many reasons, such as loneliness, grief, or other life changes. However, they may fail to identify these symptoms and only focus on physical issues. So, as a nurse, it is important to read between the lines and identify anxiety symptoms in your patient.

If your patient has anxiety, you can gain their trust by talking and listening to them. You can also help them practice relaxation techniques, encourage them to maintain a healthy diet and make physical activity a part of their life.