It is common for older adults to struggle with anxiety. This can be disheartening as a loved one, as it seems there is no way to intervene.  However a simple grounding exercise is helpful for people experiencing anxiety. The exercise goes as follows:

  • Name five things you can see
  • Name four things you can touch
  • Name three things you can hear
  • Name two things you can smell
  • Name one thing you can taste (it can simply be whatever taste is in your mouth at the moment)

Example Exercise:

  • Computer, pen, notebook, cup, folder
  • Keyboard, phone, chair, jacket
  • Phone ringing, clock ticking, TV commercial
  • Coffee, perfume
  • Gum

This is an exercise that doesn’t require anything but the current environment. A mindfulness technique, it helps bring the person back to the present moment. It minimizes the worry they are feeling.

However, senses are often dampened in the older population. The exercise will need to be tailored to the senses of the individual. I tried the exercise with my grandmother; we found things she could see, touch, and taste, as her hearing and smell are less sharp. Not only did the grounding exercise help calm her, but it was also an exercise we could complete together. It often feels difficult to communicate when a loved one is anxious. They are preoccupied with worry and it creates a wall around them, blocking human connection. The grounding exercise is an easy way to share a connection with your older family member, while also helping them with anxiety.