Mental health is an important part of overall health. That's true for people of all ages. Here are some things you need to know about mental health and older adults.
1. 1 in 4 older adults have a mental health disorder
Depression and anxiety rank among the most common mental health problems that seniors face. Recognizing the signs of mental health issues is important to getting help. Here are a few common signs:
- Sad or hopeless feelings that last more than a couple of weeks
- Persistent sleeping difficulties or over-sleeping
- Decreased ability to cope with everyday stress
- Heightened irritability, hostility, or anger
- Persistent worrying about relationships or health or financial matters
- Confusion in familiar settings or recurring difficulties with memory
- Heavier-than-normal alcohol consumption
- Persistent pain, headaches, or issues with digestion
- Suicidal thinking
Mental illness is a concern of its own, but the CDC also points out that frequent mental distress can have an impact on other factors of health as well:
"For example, older adults with frequent mental distress are less likely than those without frequent mental distress to be nonsmokers, to eat at least five fruits or vegetables daily, and to participate in moderate-tovigorous physical activity during the average week."
2. Stigma decreases likelihood of seeking help for seniors
Mental illness is not a part of the normal aging process, and the rate of mental health disorders mirrors that of the overall population. However, what is striking is that older adults are less likely to seek treatment for mental and behavioral disorders.
Overcoming stigma can be very difficult. The Philly Voice reports, "sometimes, stigmas surrounding mental health are so effective at dissuading individuals from seeking treatment that they won’t show signs that they’re suffering."
It's important to remember that mental health is healthcare. Many mental health concerns can be effectively treated. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of mental illness, talk to a healthcare professional.
3. How to promote mental health for older adults
The WHO states, "Mental health-specific health promotion for older adults involves creating living conditions and environments that support wellbeing and allow people to lead a healthy life." Among the basic resources that they recommend to promote mental health in seniors are:
- adequate housing
- programs to reduce social isolation
- providing security and freedom
- programs to prevent elder abuse
H.O.M.E. is the only organization in the City of Chicago that provides both housing and housing support services with the goal of helping older adults live independent and connected lives. You can support our programs today.
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