“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
Mental health is important for every individual, no matter their age. As we reflect on national Mental Illness Awareness Week, which took place earlier this month, we want to draw attention to the often overlooked mental health concerns that put older adults at risk, as well as offer insights and opportunities for how to help support our older neighbors experiencing mental illness.
Each stage of life presents unique opportunities, adjustments, and challenges. For seniors, many of these changes involve major life events including losing a loved one, being diagnosed and living with a serious illness, experiencing a loss of cognitive or physical abilities, and more. Some older adults may adjust more easily to these major life changes than others, who instead might feel socially isolated and lonely, and which can lead to the development of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
While symptoms of depression and anxiety are common in older adults, they don’t have to be a normal part of aging. In fact, 80% of depression cases in older adults are treatable, but often go unrecognized, and thus, remain undertreated. Whether or not a senior has social and emotional support plays a major role in their mental health outcomes; in fact, adequate support is not only associated with a reduced risk of mental illness but also lessens the risk of physical illness and early mortality.
Showing up for seniors can take many forms – from making a wellness check call to an older adult to let them know someone is thinking about them, to having a friendly chats conversation with them to learn about their history and current hobbies, you can choose how frequently and how involved you show your support for seniors every week.
“Some days I have quite a bit on my mind, so I have a lot to share with my caller,” said Barbara, a MOWP client. “But other times, when I am in a quieter mood, it is just nice to know that someone was thinking about me, and cared enough to dial my number to check-in. Friendly chats callers are sometimes the only people I talk to during the weekdays.”
Browse our different programs to learn more about getting involved, and alleviating social isolation for homebound seniors like Barbara in our community. Whether you want to chat on the phone or offer a brief check-in while delivering meals, there’s a senior in your community patiently awaiting your company.