Psychology and ageing – An overview on mental health in elders

    Henry Longfellow’s infamous words go by saying ‘as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled with stars, invisible by the day’. It is a befitting analogy for aging. Getting older allow us to experience the things we have never experienced in the young age where energies will be at their peak.

    The definition of success changes person to person. For some, it is living a lavished life and for some it is living a peaceful life. There is other category who thinks living a balanced life is the ultimate definition of success. Balanced life is fulfilling and enriching.

    Life is all about balance!

    Living a meaningful life requires you to take care of all aspects of it, including aging. Aging is an inevitable aspect of life but there are many who would not give much thought about it till the moment they embrace this crown of life.

    Thanks to the growing awareness on the impact of aging and the ways to tackle it, people these days are prepared for it. They are taking medical help, making their homes senior-friendly and taking all the precautions for a successful aging experience.

    This is just one-side of the coin and on the other side, aging is still one of the least addressed aspect in India, especially psychology of aging.

    Aging impacts psychologically as much as it impacts physically. Poor health, be it physical or mental, is NOT an inevitable consequence of aging. It is mere an excuse that tell ourselves that whatever the health condition a senior faces, it is related with aging.

    Importance of Mental Health in Seniors

    Mental health is always given a less priority over physical health and more than often it is left overlooked in seniors. Mental illness can impose grave health issues that could be, sometimes, fatal if left untreated. Psychological issues experienced by seniors may differ from what the younger generation experiences.

    During the matured adulthood the symptoms of aging may be more focused on the physical issues such as insomnia, joint pains and aches unlike the typical psychic symptoms such as sadness and depression.

    The Impact of Mental Illness in Seniors

    • Mental illness affects the ability of recovering from existing physical issues. Many researches have proven that the body’s reaction to the treatment is determined by mental health.
    • Depression can cause serious health conditions such as stroke, hypertension and heart diseases. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes is connected with mental illness.
    • Mental illness can also cause memory loss which accounts of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
    • The quality of routine life gets diminished in the light of prolonged mental illness and so the social life of the person.
    • Experiencing emotional and psychological down-time is normal in human life but living with those issues require some serious therapy sessions.

    The Reasons behind Psychological Issues

    Unlike many physical issues, psychological issues are self-made, at least in most of the cases. Older people tend to experience typical life stressors more than the other people in different age brackets. And, there are many reasons for it.

    • Reduced mobility, freedom and increased dependency hampers their confidence levels, impacting on various aspects of life.
    • They tend to experience the pain of loss of a closed ones such as their partner, close friends and relatives and it takes a toll on their mental health.
    • Retired life can become for some people considering the drop in their socioeconomic status.
    • With the increased trend of nuclear families, most of the elders are living alone. This can lead to loneliness and isolation.
    • Domestic abuse of older abuse is not a rare case these days. Adding to that burden, most of the elders are experiencing abuse both in and out of the house.
    • The consequences can be grave based on the severity and type of the abuse elders go through.

    Care Strategies to Address Mental Health Issues of Elderly

    The good news is, with cooperation and coordination we, as a society, can help seniors in avoiding most of the psychological issues. Providing medical and physical support is not sufficient in order to address the mental health issues of the elders. There is much more to it. Here are a few ways in which this issue could be addressed.

    • Making the living spaces more compatible for seniors does not remind them of their age. In addition, the small modification to the home makes a big difference by providing a safe and secured senior living experience.
    • Taking efforts to improve their mental health by thorough communication and medical help. There are home healthcare providers who offer geriatric counselling sessions at home. Take advantage of these services for your elders.
    • Training and practicing mental health can avoid a plethora of health issues. Join in local community wellness groups and volunteer for social causes will not only help you in being physically active but also mentally fit.
    • Concrete steps needed to be taken in order to increased awareness on preventive measures for elderly abuse.
    • Early diagnosis for mental illness and identifying behavioral changes prior hand can prevent dire consequences effectively.

    Providing a healthy and safe aging environment is everyone’s responsibility as a member of the society and a holistic aging experience is every senior’s right!

    By taking steps to establish an ideal society where seniors are respected, we all can help our seniors to age in a dignified manner.

    Thilak is the in-house content writer of Healthabove60, the Preferred Geriatric Home Healthcare service provider in Chennai. He mostly writes about health and elderly wellbeing.

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