On October 10, individuals over the world take time out to reflect on mental health concerns and what that means to each of us. So many resources are aimed at helping bring awareness to mental health concerns for youth and teens, young adults and the Sandwich Generation. Far too often, seniors remain in the shadows in terms of the mental health conversation, even though nearly 20% of seniors today report dealing with anxiety, depression, or a trauma/stress related disorder. And, since aging adults are the most likely to suffer in silence, those statistics are likely underreported – it is easy to assume the number of seniors facing mental health concerns is higher than we may believe. Compounding this crisis with the potential for developing life-altering conditions like Alzheimer’s, which brings its own set of mental health complications, and the need for mental health support for aging seniors is more than prevalent – it’s essential.
Seniors face many barriers to assistance for mental health care, including:
- Physical manifestations of mental complications. Many mental health symptoms can present themselves in the body in the forms of disorders such as insomnia, problems eating, or even physical pain. Aging adults report being more willing to seek physical treatments for these symptoms instead of treating the cause of the problems.
- Believing that negative mental states are normal. It is often reported that seniors believe that loneliness, feelings of sadness, negative emotions, or other symptoms of mental illness are normal as we age. That is simply not true. By allowing seniors to know that their sadness, loss, despair, and distress are not normal side effects of aging, we can open up the conversation about the need for more mental health care for aging adults.
- The silent generation often suffers in silence. Even when they feel deep suicidal ideation or other extreme mental health symptoms, seniors are often less likely to speak up and ask for help. Often believing that “no one cares,” or “everyone is too busy with their own lives,” aging adults will often put their own needs to the backburner, letting these complications simmer and grow instead of letting them out and seeking help.
What can seniors do to help themselves when mental health symptoms arise?
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy foods
- Maintain regular appointments with healthcare professionals
How can we help when seniors in our lives need help? It all comes down to access. Ensuring our seniors have access to the following can mean the difference between a life lived on their own terms and one lived under a cloud of mental health concerns that will not go away…
- Trained healthcare professionals
- Preventative measures regarding illnesses and disorders specific to aging
- Age-friendly living conditions, neighborhoods, and communities
- Social and emotional supports
- Proper care for their needs, including nutrition and social services
VANTAGE Aging takes pride in knowing our services not only serve the bodies of those we serve, but also their minds. From meal delivery of the proper nutrition each senior needs to stay healthy and well to in-home care for daily activities of life, such as errands, meal preparation, and laundry, volunteer opportunities with our AmeriCorps Senior RSVP program and employment training and assistance with our SCSCEP employment services, VANTAGE offers something for everyone. This World Mental Health Day, please think of the seniors in your life and ensure they have what they need to live long, healthy, independent lives. The silent generation deserves to age out loud, in bold and bright ways, and we all can do our part to ensure they have essential resources and services to make the most of every day, in every way.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.