Aging is a process we all must face and remaining healthy and mentally fit in our senior years is important. Doing so, though, can feel a little challenging at times. Many seniors experience life changes that can trigger mental illnesses they’ve never faced before or can amplify existing issues. Getting additional support and learning how to face the challenges of growing older can help seniors to feel more secure, no matter what changes occur.
This month, we’re observing National Senior Health and Fitness day by discussing the importance of mental health care for seniors and sharing tips to help seniors stay emotionally and cognitively healthy.
Senior Mental Health: By the Numbers
The world’s population is aging rapidly, which means that it is more important than ever to focus on the mental and physical wellness of seniors. By 2050, the world population over the age of 60 is expected to jump from 12% to 22%, which is nearly a quarter of the world’s population.
According to the CDC, an estimated 20% of people over the age of 55 report struggling with a mental health problem, especially depression. Some of the conditions commonly reported by older individuals include depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and other mood disorders. Mental illness and neurological conditions account for 6.6% of disabilities in people over the age of 60.
Despite its prevalence in an aging population, depression shouldn’t be seen as an untreatable symptom of growing old. Suicide rates are highest in older men, but that shouldn’t be dismissed as a peril of aging. Reaching out to seniors with appropriate interventions can help them enjoy their golden years—without the shadows of depression or the grip of anxiety.
Depression can have an increased amount of risk factors as we get older, including the loss of a spouse or life partner, physical illness, cognitive decline, heavy alcohol consumption, low educational attainment, isolation, and impaired functioning. Late-onset depression can greatly affect the lives of older people, but it is one of the most successfully treated conditions. Symptoms of depression can be easy to overlook, but it is critical to watch seniors for the signs that indicate they may be struggling.
Similarly, anxiety disorders can easily affect seniors who are facing big changes in their physical abilities, cognitive abilities, social circles, and other areas of life. Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, further compounding the problem.
Substance use is another prevalent issue among seniors that often goes overlooked, especially when it comes to the use of narcotic pain medications, alcohol abuse, and nicotine.
How Senior Mental Health is Addressed
In a society where ageism, or age discrimination, runs rampant, it can be a very dangerous thing for older individuals to feel that they are no longer relevant or are a burden on their loved ones. Americans strive for energetic and innovative practices, but we do so at the risk of alienating our older generations—which can have devastating consequences for seniors’ mental wellness.
There are several obstacles that stand between the elderly and getting the mental health care they need. First, there is a certain amount of stigma against mental illness, which may lead to denial or feeling like there is a lack of available resources to treat their condition. Second, limited insurance coverage or other significant health conditions can make if difficult to seek treatment or be screened for mental health issues. Finally, the number of practitioners who focus on seniors and their specific mental health needs simply isn’t keeping up with the rapidly growing population of people approaching their golden years.
There is a definite need for changes in the way mental health is addressed in seniors, and hopefully, the declining stigma of mental illness, increased research into senior mental illness and neurological conditions, and growing need for care will spark the necessary change.
Mental Health Tips for Seniors
Mental illness isn’t a normal part of aging, and there are ways to combat the effects of growing older on your mental health.
Whether you are approaching your senior years or you’re hoping to help an older loved one, here are some tips to help keep a positive outlook, slow cognitive decline, and enjoy your later years with mental wellbeing:
- Invest in yourself. Your senior years are the perfect time to develop a new skill, learn a new language, or work on a fitness routine. Taking time to value yourself and do something you’ve always wanted to do can help stave off depression and sharpen your mind.
- Practice healthy habits. These may seem simple—get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat nutritious meals, get plenty of exercise, quit smoking or drinking—but even small steps can help you enjoy your later years and provide for your brain and body’s physical needs.
- Stay social. As we age, our social circles shrink, and feelings of isolation aren’t uncommon for older people. Connect with friends and loved ones, volunteer, join a club or even take a class to get out and see other people.
- Discover the power of mindfulness. Relaxation, meditation, prayer, reflection, and other mindfulness exercises can not only reduce stress but can make therapy more effective.
- Seek treatment when needed. If you are concerned that you may be struggling with a mental illness, address your issue with your doctor and discuss potential treatment options. There is no shame in seeking help for any health condition, including mental health.
TMS for Seniors: Drug-Free Depression Treatment
Do you or a loved one struggle with depression as you age? You’re not alone—our team at Pulse TMS is here to help. We offer a safe drug-free option for treating depression and OCD, and the results are remarkable. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic waves to stimulate the parts of the brain believed to be involved in mood disorders like depression and begin the recovery process—all without the side effects of medication.
Want to learn if TMS is right for you? Contact our team today!