Mental Health Issues as We Age
Mental health issues do not discriminate, and they can affect anybody of any age. That being said, certain mental health issues are more prevalent in certain age groups. And this holds true for the elderly – defined as the generation that is 60 and older – who are more prone to certain mental health issues than the general population.
According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of the elderly population suffers from some sort of mental illness. The most common illnesses seen in this age group are dementia (a disorder defined by a decline in memory, thinking and everyday behavior) and depression, followed by anxiety and then, substance abuse issues.
Signs of a mental health issue in an elderly individual include persistent sadness, social isolation, constant fatigue, confusion, loss of appetite, memory loss, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained body aches, issues maintaining their appearance or struggles in working with numbers.
Some of the triggers for a mental illness in an elderly individual include a serious illness (such as cancer), a physical disability, the loss of a loved one, a change of environment (such as moving into an assisted living facility) or a poor diet.
Overcoming a mental health illness as we age is similar to overcoming a mental illness in all other age groups. The person with the issue should seek help from a professional. Unfortunately, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that only one in three elderly individuals who have a mental illness actually seek professional help for it.
Ways to help prevent the elderly from developing mental illnesses include ensuring that they have freedom and security, quality housing and social support. However, if an elderly individual still ends up experiencing a mental illness, it is important to help them find treatment.