Older Adult Mental Health

Sage Aging Podcast Episode 65

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As we age, lots of things change, including our physical and mental health and resilience. We pay a lot of attention to the physical ailments older adults endure. But often, we miss or overlook mental health conditions or attribute them to general aging. Penne Williams, LCSW joined me for this episode of the Sage Aging podcast to discuss. Click the player above to listen, or scroll to the bottom of the page for the full transcript.

By The Numbers

Awareness of mental health concerns has grown over the last couple of years, but have you ever stopped to consider the statistics?

  • One in five adults aged 60+ suffer from a mental or neurological disorder (WHO)
  • 6.6% of all disability among people 60+ years is attributed to mental and neurological disorders (WHO)
  • The most common mental and neurological disorders in this age group are dementia and depression. (Alzheimer’s and other dementias are categorized this way) (WHO)
  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue (NAMI)
  • Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care (NAMI)

Measuring the number of people who are experiencing mental health problems is difficult. For some, the stigma surrounding mental health makes them reluctant to seek help and for others, the changes experienced are misdiagnosed or not noticed by themselves or others at all. Unfortunately, changes in mental health are sometimes still attributed to general aging. Diminished mental health and dementia are NOT necessarily a byproduct of aging. You should seek a second opinion if this is what you are told.

Red Flags to Look For

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following, consult with your doctor:

  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Not wanting to participate in activities you used to find pleasurable
  • A change in eating habits/development of digestive issues
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Heightened agitation or aggression
  • Acting impulsively
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling lonely or hopeless/withdrawing socially

What You Can Do

If you or a loved one is struggling, the first order of business is to consult with your doctor. Sometimes a simple adjustment of medications can ease the symptoms you are experiencing. In the meantime, a few simple strategies can set the stage for better days:

  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
  • Move your body – the endorphins will lift your mood
  • Exercise your brain – games, puzzles, coloring, and music are great activities to start with. (check out Episode 42 about Expressive Art Therapy for more on this!)
  • Get outside – fresh air and sunshine will lift your spirits
  • Engage with others – invite a friend over for teas, attend a support group, enroll in a class, facetime with family. Whatever your physical ability, connection with others is vital

Links We Mentioned in the Podcast

Episode 65 Transcript



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Liz Craven
Author: Liz Craven

Liz Craven, along with her husband Wes, owns Pro-Ad Media, publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, serving the local community for over 28 years. Liz lives in Lakeland and is very active in the local community, specifically in the area of aging. Liz serves on a number of local boards and committees including the Lakeland Vision and Age Friendly Lakeland.