Mental Health For Seniors And 6 Ways To Improve It

Age is a natural occurrence that brings its own set of obstacles. As the elderly population grows, their traditional caring and life-sustaining impacts become less effective. Senior folks aged 60 and up contribute significantly to society as family members, volunteers, and active participants in the labor field. 

While most senior persons have good mental health, many are at risk of acquiring mental illnesses, neurological diseases, drug use issues, and other ailments like diabetes, hearing loss, and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, as people get senior, they are more prone to suffer from many illnesses simultaneously. In this blog, let us read about mental health for seniors.

It has been noticed that the majority of institutions and nursing homes that care for the elderly do not have a program or facility for mental health. They care for and provide the necessities such as food, shelter, and primary health care.

Elders in nursing homes are more lonely than those who live with their families. Elders who live at home or in the community have greater psychological health, are more independent, and are happier than those who live alone or in nursing institutions.

However, staying with a family does not necessarily ensure social and emotional well-being since there are numerous elder abuse and exploitation incidents.

What mental health issues are common in the elderly population?

The world’s population is increasingly aging. The proportion of the world’s senior adults is expected to nearly double between 2015 and 2050, from roughly 12% to 22%. In absolute terms, this is a projected increase of 900 million to 2 billion persons over 60. Senior individuals experience unique physical and mental health difficulties that must be addressed.

With the elderly population growing, elder health has emerged as a significant problem. Providing a secure environment for seniors is preferable to institutionalizing or placing them in old-age institutions. Yet, there are insufficient money or social security plans to care for them. As a result, it is very critical to offer services and facilities for the elderly to improve their quality of life.

mental health in seniors

According to WHO, over 20% of persons aged 60 and through suffer from a mental or neurological condition (excluding headache disorders). Mental and neurological disorders account for 6.6 percent of all impairment (disability-adjusted life years-DALYs) among those over 60. These illnesses account for 17.4 percent of Years Lived with Disability in senior persons (YLDs). 

Dementia and depression are the most frequent mental and neurological illnesses in this age range, affecting around 5% and 7% of the world’s senior population, respectively. Anxiety disorders impact 3.8 percent of the elderly population, drug use disorders affect about one percent, and persons aged 60 and up an account for over a quarter of all suicide fatalities. Substance addiction problems in the elderly are frequently neglected or misdiagnosed.

Mental health issues are underdiagnosed by both healthcare professionals and senior people. The stigma associated with these diseases makes individuals hesitant to seek treatment.

Factors that increase the risk of mental health disorders in senior individuals:

There may be various risk factors for mental health disorders at each time in life. Senior adults may suffer life pressures that all people experience, particularly frequent stressors in later life, such as a major continuing loss of capabilities and deterioration in functional capacity.

  • For example, elderly persons may have restricted mobility, chronic pain, frailty, or other health issues requiring long-term care. Furthermore, senior adults are more prone to endure events such as bereavement or a decline in socioeconomic position due to retirement.
  • These stresses can lead to isolation, loneliness, or psychological anguish in the elderly, necessitating long-term care.
  • Mental health affects physical health. For example, senior persons with physical health issues, such as heart disease have greater rates of depression than healthy adults.
  • Elder abuse affects senior persons, including physical, verbal, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse; abandonment; neglect; and major loss of dignity and respect.
  • Depression, dementia, and anxiety are frequent in old age and impact seniors’ mental health and well-being.

Dementia and depression among the elderly are public health concerns

1. Dementia

Dementia is a chronic or progressive illness characterized by a decline in memory, reasoning, behavior, and capacity to conduct daily activities. It primarily affects the elderly, although it is not a typical component of the aging process.

It is estimated that 50 million individuals globally have dementia, with over 60% residing in low- and middle-income nations. The total number of Dementia patients is expected to rise to 82 million by 2030 and 152 million by 2050.

There are substantial societal and economic difficulties regarding the direct expenses of medical, social, and informal care connected with dementia. Furthermore, physical, emotional, and financial strains can strain families and caregivers. Both persons with dementia and their caregivers require health, social, economic, and legal institutions.

2. Depression

Depression may be excruciatingly painful and hamper everyday functioning. Unipolar depression affects 7% of the overall senior population and accounts for 5.7 percent of YLDs among those over 60. In primary care settings, depression is both underdiagnosed and undertreated. Symptoms are frequently neglected and mistreated because they co-occur with other senior individuals’ other issues.

Compared to individuals with chronic medical illnesses such as lung disease, hypertension, or diabetes, senior adults with depressive symptoms perform worse. Depression also raises the sense of ill health, the use of healthcare services, and the expense of healthcare services.

6 ways to improve their mental health in seniors-

As family dynamics and circumstances change, Active Retirement Living and Adult Day Health programs may provide seniors with social settings and a supportive community to continue participating in activities they enjoy and even discover new ones!

Keeping this in mind, here is our seniors’ guide to developing and sustaining good mental health for seniors and their well-being.

How can the elderly improve mental health-

1.  Play games for the mind

The brain needs stimulation to avoid cognitive decline and stay sharp as we age, just as the body requires physical exercise and motivation to keep healthy. According to Harvard Health Publishing, brain games can improve cognitive abilities such as processing speed, response time, planning skills, short-term memory, and decision making. 

Any activity that keeps the mind engaged and working toward a solution to a problem benefits brain health; however, some of the more frequent and accessible activities for seniors include:

  • Reading for them and writing affectionate letters for them.
  • Making them learn a new language.
  • Playing an instrument for them or teaching them to play it with you.
  • Play puzzles and games with them.

2.  Physical activities for the body

Regular walks, yoga sessions, and ballroom dancing are just a few examples of how exercise and physical activity improve the mind and the body by enhancing confidence. It lowers the chance of falling. 

Staying healthy by being active and getting enough exercise is just as important for seniors’ mental health and well-being as they are for anybody else at any age.

Low-impact workouts like stretching and strength training, on the other hand, are required to help seniors stay healthy and lower the risk of typical age-related disorders, including bone fractures, joint discomfort, and other chronic diseases.

In addition to physical advantages, exercises may help seniors manage to worry, stress, depression, and anxiety, which can be just as dangerous to their health as physical diseases and injuries. Exercising is essential for maintaining excellent senior mental health.

3.  Maintain Contact with Friends

People’s ability to retain intimate ties with longtime friends might be hampered by time and distance, especially as they age. Keeping in contact with the essential people in their lives can help senior persons avoid loneliness and feelings of isolation, leading to despair and mental and physical deterioration.

Learning how to connect with new and old friends on social media, FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype are just a few examples of methods to remain in contact. There are always people eager to educate senior persons on how to utilize these various programs and online lessons available. Seniors might also keep it simple by writing letters or scheduling a phone conversations regularly.

4.  Take up a New Hobby

Close-up of earthenware in the hands of a potter. An artist creates an ornament on a porcelain object. It is critical to remain active after retirement. Everyone has a personal wishlist of hobbies and goals they want to pursue. Still, those plans are occasionally put on hold because life gets in the way.

Retirement is the perfect moment for seniors to revisit their “bucket list” and pursue lifetime goals, such as gardening, sewing, painting, or French cooking!

5.  Volunteering

Volunteering for a meaningful cause provides many seniors with fulfillment and a feeling of purpose.

With a plethora of organizations and causes in need of assistance, there are several chances for senior folks to become involved and, as a result, feel appreciated and wanted.

Volunteering for a cause or organization as a senior may be a gratifying experience at any age.

Volunteering may benefit seniors’ physical, emotional, and mental health for those wishing to devote their time after retirement.

6.  Taking Care of a Pet

Animals, when used appropriately, can keep elders engaged and busy while also providing companionship via their unconditional affection.

According to the CDC, many studies have proven that the link between humans and their dogs may improve fitness, reduce stress, and promote happiness.

Other health advantages of owning a pet include:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Loneliness has been reduced.
  • Increased socializing opportunities

If you don’t want or cannot acquire a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter is a terrific opportunity to bond with animals while assisting groups in need.

treatment and care options for mental health for seniors

It is critical to equip health practitioners and society to address the unique demands of senior people, which include:

  • Training for health workers in the care of the elderly
  • Preventing and controlling age-related chronic illnesses, such as mental, neurological, and substance-use issues
  • Developing long-term and palliative care policies that are sustainable
  • Creating age-friendly services and environments


Good general health and social care are critical for enhancing the health of senior persons, avoiding sickness, and managing chronic conditions. Senior people must maintain their mental health since they are more vulnerable to various physical disorders and conditions if their minds are not solid and stable. Senior folks can benefit considerably from making an effort to engage in mind-healthy activities every day. There are easy and quick tasks to accomplish that can assist enormously in the long run, whether it’s completing a crossword puzzle each morning, going for a couple of walks a day, or even writing.

For more information on where to get the help, you can read our blog on where to get mental health help.

Please share any other activity to keep your mental health healthy.

Take care of mental health and keep reading our weekly blog posts.

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