Mental health of older adults

Seniors over the age of 60 make an important contribution to society as active participants in families, volunteers, and the workforce. Although most are in good mental health, many older people are at risk of developing mental disorders, neuropathy, or substance use problems, as well as other health problems such as diabetes, deafness, and arthritis. Also, as people get older, they are more likely to have multiple conditions at the same time.

The Issue

The world population is aging rapidly. It is estimated that the share of elderly people in the world will almost double from 12% to around 22% between 2015 and 2050. In absolute numbers, it is projected to increase from 900 million to 2 billion over the age of 60. Older people face particular physical and mental health problems that they should be aware of. More than 20% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from psychiatric or neuropathic conditions (excluding headache disorders) and 6.6% of all disabilities (DALY) in people over the age of 60 are due to psychiatry and neuropathy. In the elderly, these conditions account for 17.4% of life with disabilities (YLD). The most common psychiatric diseases and neuropathies in this age group are dementia and depression, which affect approximately 5% and 7% of the elderly worldwide respectively. Anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of older adults, substance use problems occur in nearly 1% and about a quarter of self-harm deaths in people over the age of 60. The problem of substance abuse in the elderly is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

Mental health problems are not well identified by medical professionals and the elderly themselves, and the stigma surrounding these conditions makes people reluctant to seek help.

Risk factors for mental health problems in the elderly

There can be multiple risk factors for mental health problems at any stage in life. Older people may experience life stressors common to everyone, but they also experience more common stressors in old age, such as significant and ongoing loss of ability and impaired functional capacity. For example, older adults may have movement disorders, chronic pain, weakness, or other health conditions that require some form of long-term care. Furthermore, older people are more likely to experience events such as death and a decline in socioeconomic status following retirement. All of these stressors can lead to isolation, loneliness, or psychological distress in the elderly and may require long-term care.

Mental health affects physical health and vice versa. For example, older people with physical health, such as heart disease, have a higher incidence of depression than otherwise healthy people. Additionally, untreated depression in older adults with heart disease can adversely affect their outcomes. Older people are also vulnerable to elder abuse, including physical, linguistic, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse. To leave; forget; great loss of dignity and respect. Current evidence shows that one in six elders experience elder abuse. Elder abuse can have serious and sometimes lasting psychological consequences, such as depression and anxiety, as well as physical injury.

Therapeutic and care strategies to meet the mental health needs of the elderly

It is important to prepare health care workers and communities for the specific needs of older people, including:

  • Training for health professionals in providing care for older people;
  • Preventing and managing age-associated chronic diseases including mental, neurological and substance use disorders;
  • Designing sustainable policies on long-term and palliative care; and
  • Developing age-friendly services and settings.

The mental health of older people can be improved by promoting active and healthy aging. Promoting the mental health of older people includes creating living conditions and environments that support well-being and enable people to lead healthy lives. Mental health promotion depends heavily on strategies for providing resources for older people to meet their needs:

  • Providing security and freedom;
  • Adequate housing through a supportive housing policy;
  • Social support for older people and their caregivers;
  • Health and social programs targeted at vulnerable groups such as those who live alone and rural populations or who suffer from a chronic or relapsing mental or physical illness;
  • Programs to prevent and deal with elder abuse; and
  • Community development programs.

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