As people age, some aspects of life change. The consequences of age can range from normal impacts on cognition, social connections or change of employment status due to retirement to challenges with degenerative diseases and concerns of discrimination in the community. Contending with ageism and discrimination based on what other perceive we have to contribute based on our maturity can can make it difficult to find work, even with adequate skills, qualifications and experience.
These challenges can impact upon individuals as well as families and change relationship dynamics, adding stress and strain as needs change. For some adults, the changes that occur as they age can lead to anxiety, depression or difficulty adjusting to new ways of living.
Strategies to try now
There are times in life when the assistance of a psychologist is necessary. Here are some things that can be implemented now to promote improved mental health:
Keeping socially active
Speak about the difficulties we are having with someone we trust
Do things that give us a sense of pleasure and achievement
Maintaining a daily routine
Accepting the assistance of others
Eating consistent meals and keeping a healthy diet
It is thought that 10-15% of people over 60 years old experience depression and about 10% experience anxiety
Some of the signs an ageing adult is experiencing mental health difficulties include:
Moodiness and irritability
Feeling fearful of something bad happening or scared to engage in certain situations or events
Inability to find pleasure in activities
Difficulty in making decisions
Being concerned with the judgement they may face from others for not feeling strong
Experiencing increased heart rate, dizziness, tension and pain or nausea in the absence of diagnosed medical conditions
Neglect of self-care
Withdrawal from friends and family
Frequently Asked Questions
Some simple facts to help you understand challenges with ageing and how you can best manage them.
Risks factors for mental health difficulties in ageing adults.
Many of the factors that can lead to developing mental and emotional concerns are common to all people, at any point in life. As we age, stressors can occur more frequently, some of these challenges include:
Increased incidence of physical ailments
New loss, including deaths of friends and family, changes to work and income, or differences with our bodies, such as reduced energy or mobility
Changes to living arrangements, such as moving from a family home
Experiencing milestones and the memories that they evoke
It is common for ageing adults to view mental and emotional challenges as weaknesses and attach a stigma to seeking help. It is important to seek assistance for all health concerns rather than ignoring symptoms, or allowing things to worsen to the point of an emergency.
How common are mental health difficulties for ageing adults?
In Australia, depression is common and ageing people are more likely to experience factors leading to depression such as loss, illness and major life changes. As the Australian population ages, it is anticipated that there will be more people living longer with mental and emotional health challenges and more people developing mental health concerns.
Life after developing skills to manage difficulties as an ageing adult.
While we cannot stop the process of ageing, we can certainly learn new skills to improve our feelings and return to a place where life feels fulfilling and meaningful. We know that the length of time that someone has experienced a mental or emotional challenge does not determine their ability to recover from these feelings, so it is never too late to ask for support.
It is important to share all of the details of how you feel and mention physical and mental symptoms to your GP so that they can assist you to get the best support.
Getting Professional Help
Evidence based treatments make the biggest difference.
The best place to start the process of getting support is with your GP. It may be helpful to make a list of all of the feelings you are experiencing, physically, mentally and emotionally. After talking about your symptoms, the GP will refer you to any specialists, including a psychologist near you, for additional care.
Myths About Adjustment Difficulties and Adjustment Disorder
``The older we get, the less sleep we need``
Ageing Adults Myth 1
``Older adults can’t learn new things, so asking for help is pointless``
Ageing Adults Myth 2
``Things will work out for themselves``
Ageing Adults Myth 3
``Older people should be left alone in peace and quiet, they aren’t interested in the outside world``