Mental Health Challenges in the Aging Population: Insights & Solutions
The older adult population is rapidly increasing in numbers in the county. With these numbers, the issues related to the mental health of old people are also increasing. People who have reached retirement age are struggling with different mental health problems. “The Surgeon General’s Report estimates that 20% of persons age 55 and older experience specific mental disorders that are not part of ‘normal’ aging” (Tennessee Mental Health Planning Council, 2000). The mental health conditions of each population group depend on various factors that influence them. The older group is a specific part of the population most subjected to various factors affecting their mental health.
Factors that impact the mental health of older people include the physical environment, individual characteristics, and economic and social factors. In general, older people are influenced by the retirement process, physical changes, income changes, relationships with relatives and the natural aging process. The other factors will vary from the lifestyle of each individual. The other important factor is the need for more decent service care for older people in clinics. It is essential because the Substance and Mental Health Service Administration reports that medical personnel are not well equipped and trained to provide decent service care for older adults. This shortage becomes crucial because the percentage of older people in the country has increased (Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). The other research also estimated that older people with different mental problems do not get the proper services they need (Barlets, 2004).
Retirement could be the happiest time for people to have a rest from work and an opportunity to rebuild their lives. It is a good time to engage in different types of activity. However, it could be one of the factors that could lead to some mental issues in old age. For some people, retirement is a time to plan a trip to many countries all over the world, but for others, it is a narrowing of their social communication; it is a narrowing of people and systems that support them. It could be a real cut in their incomes. Many people realize their mortality and feel that they no longer belong to the current society. Older people also tend to discover the negative sides of their identity and see the changes in their self-image. Retirement is a process that could involve several features, such as reasons and age of retirement. Older people need more than those features and have mental problems.
In our time, when money is a solution to many people’s problems, the income issue is one of the main factors influencing older adults’ mental health. In general, older people have much lower incomes than when they were younger. “The primary source of income for those over age 65 is social security benefits” (American Psychological Association). As a rule, older people with lower incomes are not satisfied with their lives and seek to blame the government and other people for this. As a result, it might lead to mental health issues. The other change that older people face is their physical condition. It is a serious factor that impacts the mental health of older people, such as restricting their physical activity. Older people consider the bad physical condition as a sign of aging. This could seriously influence their social and psychological well-being. The physical change could limit their ability to move quickly. As a result, it will decrease their social communication and participation in any usual events in their lives.
Older adults also face changes in social support networks. This change is another challenge for older people that could lead to mental problems. Three key elements of social support networks exist: caregiving, spousal grief and social isolation. It is not a risk to the mental health of older adults when other older people or a partner is a caregiver. However, caregivers could have depression due to their service to older people with dementia. “A significant number of people develop dementia or depression in old age” (Mental Health Foundation, 2012). The loss of a partner is a factor that could rapidly undermine the moral and social functions of old people. It could lead to a decline in mental health. Social isolation or lowliness is the first step to depression and the risk of suicide. Old people could feel that they are unsecured and have low economic status.
Many old people start to abuse alcohol in old age. The consumption of alcohol could lead to mental problems. This problem is more common for men. The mental problems related to alcohol abuse are depression, confusion, hearing voices, anxiety and dementia (Mental Health Foundation, 2012). There was conducted research which estimated that 17% of older adults abuse medication and alcohol. Some do not want to indicate themselves as at risk for constant abuse (Bartels, 2004). Depression is also a factor that causes mental problems in old age. People in this age are more vulnerable to factors that cause depression. Older people who suffer from depression could experience various symptoms, including guilt, loss of pleasure and interest, feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. “Some 10-16% of elderly people in the community have depression, rising to 40% of older people in residential and nursing care homes” (Mental Health Foundation, 2012).
Old people are a group of people who are more vulnerable to many factors that could cause mental health problems. The main factors are physical and income changes, depression, alcohol and medication abuse, loneliness, poor care service, and lack of social communication. This bunch of factors indicates that the government should increase mental health treatment for older adults.
1. American Psychological Association., 2012. Older Adults’ Health and Age-Related Changes. Available at https://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/older
2. Barlets, S. 2005. Substance abuse and mental health care among older people. The state of the knowledge and future directions. Rockville, MD: WESTAT.
3. Department of Health and Human Services., 2001. Older Adults and Mental Health: Issues and Opportunities.
4. Mental Health Foundation., 2012. Older People.
5. Tennessee Mental Health Planning Council., 2000. Mental Health Issues and Needs of Older Adults.