Did you know the Mental Health Foundation has been running for 70 years now? Or that World Mental Health Day was founded in 1992? With Mental Health Awareness Week having recently taken place, now feels like a good time to reflect on a conversation that we should be having every day.
It’s also time that we brought the voices and needs of people aged 65 and over into the conversation. By focusing almost exclusively on children, teenagers and younger adults, we run the risk of presenting poor mental health as either something that can be ‘fixed’ or as an issue that doesn’t impact older people – which is definitely not the case. Mental health is for life.
The link between physical and mental health
People often refer to ‘mid-life’ crisis and the changes that happen to our bodies as we approach and enter middle age. Less spoken about are some of the physical changes that occur beyond middle age which can have a significant impact on our mental health. By way of example, osteoporosis affects 3.5 million people in the UK1, and age-related macular degeneration is the nation’s biggest cause of sight loss – affecting around 1.5m people in the UK2. Both can make daily life difficult – preventing you from driving and participating in hobbies that you once enjoyed. Breaks and falls in later life can create further complications that take away your mobility – and in some instances the ability to live independently for a period of time.
In these instances, the loss of independence can create circumstances that lead to social isolation and loneliness – something that is often attributed as a key factor in poor mental health. Research conducted by Age UK estimates that around 1.9m older people in the UK feel ignored or invisible3.
Pre-existing mental health conditions
Another topic that is not discussed often enough is dealing with pre-existing mental health issues as we age – and yet they are just as prevalent among older adults as they are among younger adults. Symptoms of poor mental health in people over 65 are frequently associated with “getting older” and therefore left untreated. Fortunately, the NHS is seeking to redress the balance in the publication of its “Mental Health in Older People Practice Primer”4. Designed to improve the identification and management of mental health conditions in older people, it points out that older people are more likely to be on medication for mental health issues and less likely to be offered talking therapies. The Practice Primer is being made available to GPs as a means to ensure that when people over the age of 65 present with symptoms of poor mental health, or have a prior history of poor mental health, that they are offered appropriate consultation and access to services irrespective of their age.
A piece of excellent news that we discovered via the Practice Primer is that Age UK is rolling out pilots across the UK to offer more talking therapies, reduce stigma and introduce psychological coping strategies and social connections to a group that has been under-represented in a national conversation. You can find out more about this on the Age UK website
A positive approach to mental health
If you’re worried about your mental health, or that of a loved one, you may find the following services and resources useful:
Your Mind Matters – Age UK. A Guide full of ideas and tips for emotional wellbeing
Standing Together – Mental Health Foundation. A project to improve the emotional health and community connections of older people living in supported housing, as well as to reduce loneliness and isolation
Local Services – Mind. Find support services that are local to you by conducting a search using your postcode
The Silver Line – A free, confidential helpline for people aged 55 and over offering information, advice and a telephone befriending service. Call 0800 4 70 80 90 or visit the website
Mental health is important to us at Helpd. We’ve found that our carers often positively impact their client’s mental health by helping them to live as independently as possible in their own homes.
Our dedicated online introductory service puts you in control of care – from hourly home care to finding a full-time live-in carer. To learn more, call us on 0118 449 2373 or start your search right here on our website