Aging and Mental Health

Mental health and emotional wellness are important at any age, but because older people may also suffer from several other physical ailments, mental health issues can be overlooked or pushed to the backburner. And when approximately 15% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder, it’s important we understand the signs and risk factors.

Two of the most common mental health issues found in older adults are depression and dementia.

Like with any age, multiple factors including social, psychological and biological contribute to a person’s mental health. But because of their stage in life, older people may have more of these risk factors present associated with mental health issues like depression.

  • Loss of loved ones
  • Failing physical health
  • Loss of independence
  • Lowered income due to retirement
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness

Symptoms of depression in older adults are often overlooked because they closely resemble problems common among older adults; so many cases of depression in the elderly go undiagnosed and untreated. Consequently, poor mental health can affect physical health and vice versa. For example, untreated depression in an elderly person already suffering from heart disease can make the condition worse.

Dementia is a syndrome that is not a normal part of aging, but usually affects older people by causing deterioration in memory and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030 approximately 75.6 million people will suffer from dementia with the number increasing to 135.5 million by 2050. The key to helping those who suffer from dementia is providing adequate long-term care, but this sometimes puts added stress and financial burden on the families of loved ones who have dementia.

Just like there is no easy answer to mental health issues as a whole, how we care for the unique needs of the growing number of aging adults with mental health disorders has no simple solution. But I believe the first step is awareness, so that we remove the stigma still surrounding mental health and come together to help those suffering from mental health disorders and their loved ones working hard to care for them.

According to the World Health Organization, between the years 2015 – 2050, the world’s population over the age of 60 will nearly double increasing from 12% to 22%—which is a great thing!  Modern medicine has done wonders in helping people live longer lives. We need to make sure the same strides are taken in mental health prevention, diagnosis and treatment, so people can live life to the fullest all their many years.