Improving Mental Health for Seniors
As we age, we come to expect and even accept a growing number of physical limitations. The plain and simple truth is we just won’t be as energetic or limber as we once were — it’s just part of getting older.
Despite these new limitations, there’s one area we should continue to focus on just the same as we did in our younger days — mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders affect about 15% of adults over the age of 60. In addition, 6.6% of total disabilities for the same age group are attributable to mental and neurological disorders.
And the undeniable fact is the world population is getting older. The WHO reports the number of people over the age of 60 worldwide will increase from 12% in 2015 to 22% by 2050. That’s an increase from 900 million people to 2 billion people. As the global population increases, so too does the need to understand how to recognize mental disorders in senior citizens — and how to treat them.
Common mental disorders
The WHO reports the two most common mental disorders in senior citizens are dementia and depression.
Dementia is a syndrome — not one specific disease — that includes a number of symptoms that impair cognitive function like memory, thinking, behavior, and day-to-day life. Symptoms include memory loss, shortened attention span, impaired communication, difficulty in reasoning, and loss of visual perception.
Depression is under-treated and under-diagnosed, the WHO says, because the symptoms often occur simultaneously with other problems senior citizens experience as they get older. Regardless, the WHO reports unipolar depression affects 7% of senior citizens and accounts for 5.7% of years lived with disability.
Symptoms of depression can include:
- Feelings of sadness or despair
- Loss of appetite or sudden weight loss
- Loss of interest in hobbies or socializing
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Loss of motivation or energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Slowed movement or speech
- Increased substance use such as alcohol or drugs
- Memory problems
- Neglect of personal care
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Dementia and depression are not a normal part of aging. These symptoms are not to be ignored — if a loved one is experiencing them, seek medical help.
How to improve mental health
For seniors, one of the most important ways to treat mental health is to reach out and stay connected with friends and family. Loneliness can often amplify symptoms of depression, so remember to stay in touch with friends and family. Get involved in social groups with fellow seniors or volunteer your time with local groups and organizations.
Though physical activity may be limited, any little bit helps. Get up and get moving, if you can, or take a day trip with a friend or relative who can assist you. In fact, just spending time in the sunlight can help boost your mood, so enjoy a cup of coffee or tea outside or even next to your window.
Remember: It’s never too late to pick up a hobby. As you get older, you’ll find you have time for things you may not have tried when you were younger, so what better time than the present? Whether it’s painting, writing, or gardening, find the thing that sparks your joy and pursue it.
Culbertson Senior Life Solutions is an outpatient program that provides a safe atmosphere for seniors to gather with peers and learn effective ways to manage the stresses of aging. If you have other medical concerns and need to see a provider, our team is here to help.
Contact us and schedule a general appointment today.