It’s Never Too Late in Life to Speak to Someone About Your Mental Health
Guest Post by Alexis Ross —
Riverstone has a variety of mental health screening and referral services, as well as an on-site clinic. Contact us today if you need more information.
Although late adulthood can be enjoyable and rewarding, there are older adults who struggle with maintaining their mental health and wellbeing. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health reveals that mental illnesses are prevalent among older adults aged 50 and above, with 14.5% of them experiencing depression, anxiety, or a substance use disorder. Even worse, more than half (52%) of them do not receive treatment or counseling for their mental health problems.
While mainstream conversations on mental health have been largely focused on the youth and younger adults, what these findings reveal is that senior mental health should be of equal concern. It must be highlighted how important it is for older adults to talk about and seek help for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
The importance of talking to mental health professionals
At any age, mental health plays an essential role in overall health. However, the risk mechanisms for mental health problems can be quite complex in later life. Due to declining health and mobility, older adults can disproportionately experience chronic pain, medical problems, and dementia. These can then affect their mental health through changes in their cognitive function, mood, and behavior.
The loss of daily routines upon retirement can also make seniors more vulnerable to feeling lonely and isolated. According to a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the pandemic has exacerbated social isolation and loneliness. Since the pandemic, a significant portion of older adults have been bothered by anxiety (45%); had feelings of depression or despair (31%); and struggled with falling or staying asleep (52%).
Thus, seeking mental health support and services specialized for older adults can help them make sense of these changes and, at the same time, learn healthy coping strategies. Mental health must remain a priority even in later life, and this can be addressed through easy, accessible, and destigmatized care and treatment.
Mental health interventions for older adults
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
The range of mental disorders faced by older adults can be addressed through the empirically supported cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to replace dysfunctional behavioral and thinking patterns with healthier, more effective coping and problem-solving skills. Research by Conti et al. on CBT in older adults encourage therapists and clinicians to work with their clients in making necessary modifications based on history, cultural background, and age-related clinical issues like illness, disability, or dementia.
Designed to be complementary to behavioral and pharmacological treatment, physical activity interventions can help create an integrative approach to mental health. Among the exercises that therapists and mental health professionals can recommend is yoga.
Aside from improving strength, movement, and flexibility, yoga offers mental and spiritual benefits. By incorporating meditation and breathing exercises into yoga poses, it can help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The holistic power of yoga for healing both the body and the mind can also be made more accessible to older adults through adaptive yoga that takes into account bodies of all ages and abilities.
Lastly, music therapy can be another complementary treatment that provides relaxation and reduces stress levels from mental health problems. A research study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal also found that music interventions can improve sleep quality among older adults. Although living with a mental health problem can affect how well one sleeps, listening to music especially before bedtime benefits seniors’ sleep latency, duration, and efficiency.
Music therapy can also enhance the memory of seniors living with cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is why a previous blog post includes a playlist for music therapy that seniors can try listening to. Aside from at-home music therapy, Riverstone Senior Living Services also provides care and support for the mental health of seniors through cognitive games, gentle exercises, and community discussions. To learn more about our services, feel free to check out the rest of our website.
Content intended only for the use of riverstonenyc.org
Prepared by Alexis Ross