Aging isn't always the most enjoyable part of the human experience to endure. While many of us embrace the aging process and all that it brings, there are many who feel the opposite. Planning for retirement, evaluating one's lifetime achievements, combating physical ailments, cell degeneration, and mental decline are only a few of the struggles those who are 50 to 65 years of age and older are likely to face as they mature. One in five adults in this age group will find themselves with a mental illness, and depression is the most prevalent. While depression isn't a natural part of the aging process, 58% of people believe that it is. Depression is commonly linked with a variety of physical conditions and is six times more likely to result in suicide for those age 85 and older. There are a variety of factors related to the cause of these statistics beyond physical decline or illness, and they include a reduction in social and emotional support with age, as well as life dissatisfaction.
A recent study conducted at University College London, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that those age 50 and above who regularly engaged in cultural engagements outside of the home had a significantly lower chance of developing depression. In this study, the cultural engagements measured included visiting the theater, going to the movies, and visiting museums. It was found that those who engaged in such cultural experiences once every few months experienced a 32% lower risk of developing depression after age 50, while those who attended such cultural events once per month experienced a 48% lower chance of developing depression.
Now, some of you may be thinking that one's socioeconomic status (SES) has a role in this, as some of these things do cost money, but this isn't always the case. Others may be wondering if those who do engage in such events are more socially connected, but this also wasn't a factor according to the study. Even those who were loners without social support experienced substantial benefits. While attending these events can add up in terms of costs over time, there are a variety of cultural experiences that can be enjoyed for little or no money as we age. And so with that, let's dive into some ideas for cultural engagements that can be enjoyed at any age, on any budget.
Attending the Theater
Attending the theater doesn't necessarily mean attending an extravagant Broadway production. There are a variety of theater productions that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere. These could include community theater productions, off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway shows, and even the school or university productions of children and grandchildren. For those of you who are theater enthusiasts, but find it difficult to afford to attend regularly, there are companies that can help reduce the costs of attending the theater such as Groupon and SeatJunky. Groupon offers tickets at a reduced price, while SeatJunky requires a small annual fee, but all events attended (theater performances, comedy shows, concerts, etc.) are free.
Going to the Movies
The price of going to the movies has drastically changed over the years, and those who are 50 and over know this more than anyone. While it can feel wonderful to treat yourself to a movie, many find it more fiscally beneficial to stay at home with Netflix and popcorn these days. This no longer has to be the case. There are a variety of ways to get out and see movies regularly that will not break the bank. Many communities offer special movie nights for a discounted rate, or even for free. There is also a movie club that can be joined for $10 per month that allows members to see as many movies as they wish at specified theaters (within certain limits). Let's also not forget about second-run films that can be attended for a fraction of the ticket price, as well as matinees. It's becoming more and more difficult to justify staying at home when there are so many creative ways to get out and become culturally exposed.
Museums offer wonderful opportunities to become culturally engaged. While these do typically require an entrance fee, there are many museums across the country that are low-cost, or free. In Balboa Park in San Diego, for example, residents are able to attend a selected group of museums and gardens for free on Tuesdays. The museums available for free rotate each week, so there's always an excuse to get out and experience some culture. It's always a good idea to research the events going on in your community as well to see if there are any opportunities for cultural experiences or museum visits throughout the year.
Other Ideas for Cultural Engagement
While the University College London study only covered three options for cultural engagement, there are many ways to engage in cultural experiences beyond visiting the theater, museums, and movies. Such events include:
- Cultural community festivals
- Cultural food events
- Community organization events
- Religious or spiritual events and celebrations
- Sporting events or competitions
- Traveling to other lands and experiencing new cultures
- Art exhibits
- Comedy shows
Alternative Methods for Combating Depression
While getting out on a regular basis and experiencing culture can drastically reduce the likelihood of developing depression later in life, it isn't a cure-all preventative measure. Despite the risk reduction, there is a chance for developing symptoms of depression or mental illness as we age. This is why I recommend a holistic, integrative approach toward mental health management that includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sunlight, social support, regulated sleep cycles, and a spiritual or religious outlet. One of the best ways to ensure the body and mind stay healthy is by feeding it with all of the essential micronutrients it needs to perform optimally. Researchers have found this to be a significantly important element in treating and preventing mental illness at any age. While eating a healthy diet is important, this doesn't guarantee that all of the essential micronutrients required to achieve such results will be consumed. This is why I recommend a micronutrient supplement designed for optimal absorption. While it may seem expensive for some, the results outweigh the costs and are likely to save money over time that could be lost due to experiencing a depressive episode. If you're interested in learning more about a micronutrient supplement, I urge you to look into the formula developed by Focus Essentials.
I hope this information has been helpful to all of you, and that it inspired many of you to get out and engage in some cultural experiences while thinking about becoming proactive in regards to mental health. Should you have any questions, I welcome you to reach out and leave a comment below!