In the United States, the number of people over the age of 65 is projected to double (from approximately 35 million to 70 million) between 2000 and 2030. Unfortunately, many of those individuals will be affected by mental health struggles. In fact, approximately 15% of adults over the age of 65 suffer from some form of mental illness, including depression. Getting older is an inevitable part of life, and learning ways to be as healthy as possible is essential. While physical health tends to be discussed in association with getting older, the importance of aging and mental health is often overlooked. At HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, we strive to close this gap through educating the public and providing services to older adults with mental health struggles.
Aging and Mental Health Risk Factors
Although depression in older adults does occur, depression, despite what you may have heard, is not a “normal” part of aging. Of course it is possible for anyone to experience aging and mental health problems, there are certain factors that make it more likely for some individuals.
- Women – statistically, women are more likely to experience mental health problems as they age.
- Financial struggles.
- Alcohol dependence.
- General health problems. For an older person with mental health struggles, depression often co-occurs with an existing medical condition, such as diabetes or cancer, which can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and vice versa.
- Death of a loved one.
- Living in a care facility.
Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults
Regardless of the cause, depression in older adults can have both physical and mental consequences, which complicate the natural aging process. Unfortunately, loved ones and friends of the elderly often miss the signs of depression, which means many of these people are not getting the necessary help. Additionally, older adults tend to be more reluctant to report their depression. Thus, it is so important to know the symptoms of depression in older adults.
- Increased irritability or “grumpiness.”
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Increased tiredness.
- Overeating or appetite loss.
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Confusion or attention-problems. Depression in older adults often mimics dementia, yet confusion, forgetfulness, and attention-problems could also be a strong indicator of a mental health problem.
Ways to Manage Aging and Mental Health
Although mental health problems like depression or anxiety in older adults are common, there are ways this population can decrease their risk of developing depression, or better manage existing symptoms of depression.
- Healthy eating.
- Stress reduction strategies. (i.e. – meditation, self-care, etc.)
To find out more about aging and mental health or the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, contact us at (518) 218-1188.