Tips to improve senior citizens' mental health
Want to effectively enhance the mental health and quality of life for senior citizens? Here are a few comprehensive approaches
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), over 20% of adults aged 60 and above suffer from mental or neurological disorders, which impact their quality of life hence, it is critical that we understand and address the mental health needs of senior citizens as mental health issues among older adults are a prevalent but often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. According to a recent Lancet Report, the number of dementia cases in India is expected to almost double by 2050 where the tally will increase to 11M from 3.8M in 2019, according to the analysis published in January 2022.
These findings are proof of the need to raise awareness about senior citizens' mental health and implement effective strategies to address their unique needs. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shabnam Mir, Consultant Physician and Head Clinical Operation at Antara, shared, “With time, the need for dependable and professional services and solutions for seniors has accentuated. India needs a robust and well-rounded senior care ecosystem to cater to the evolving needs of the senior population. This, in fact, presents an untapped economic opportunity to drive India’s growth agenda in the next 2-3 decades. Therefore, to keep up with the emerging needs, we need senior living facilities that are equipped to respond to the evolving needs and desires of seniors through a blend of lifestyle and lifecare offerings delivering a comprehensive, seamless experience. Recognising the need for specialised care for patients, we need to introduce specially-curated facilities like Memory Care Homes, with ambulatory, neurological and ageing-related conditions, that offer healthcare solutions based on its Memory Care Learning Roadmap.”
Asserting that by addressing these various aspects holistically, we can effectively enhance the mental health and quality of life for senior citizens, Dr Shabnam Mir recommended a few comprehensive approaches to improve senior citizens' mental health -
- Education and Workshops: Initiating educational workshops and seminars focused on mental health and ageing can provide older adults with valuable information about common mental health issues, coping strategies, and the importance of seeking help. Inviting mental health professionals to speak on these topics can destigmatize mental health discussions and empower seniors to take proactive steps toward better mental well-being.
- Regular Health Check-ups: Integrating mental health assessments into routine medical check-ups can enable early identification of conditions like depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Healthcare providers can offer appropriate interventions and referrals to specialists, ensuring comprehensive care for older adults' mental health.
- Physical Activity and Exercise: Encouraging regular physical activity through tailored exercise classes such as yoga, tai chi, and gentle aerobics can have a positive impact on seniors' mental health and cognitive functions. Physical activity not only promotes physical well-being but also contributes to a sense of accomplishment and increased social interactions.
- Social Engagement: Loneliness and isolation can significantly affect senior citizens' mental health. Promoting social engagement through community activities, volunteering, and family interactions can help seniors stay connected, combat feelings of loneliness, and foster a sense of belonging.
- Nutrition and Hydration: Educating seniors about the connection between a balanced diet, hydration, and mental well-being can lead to healthier lifestyle choices. Ensuring access to nutritious meals and proper hydration is essential for maintaining both physical and mental health.
- Cognitive Stimulation: Providing cognitive activities and games that challenge seniors' minds can help maintain cognitive function and mental agility. Engaging activities like puzzles, brain-teasers and memory exercises offer enjoyable ways to keep the mind sharp.
- Telehealth and Online Resources: Leveraging telehealth services and online resources can bridge the gap for seniors who face mobility challenges. Offering remote mental health support and informative content through digital platforms ensures accessibility to valuable resources.
- Partnerships with Mental Health Organizations: Collaborating with mental health organisations enables the development of tailored resources and programs for seniors. Leveraging the expertise of these organisations ensures the delivery of specialised services and workshops.
Dr Shabnam Mir concluded, “The comprehensive approaches outlined above, regular health check-ups and creative therapies, collectively form a blueprint for enhancing the mental health of our seniors. By fostering a society that embraces specialised care and leverages the power of technology, we can create an environment where seniors receive the support and resources they need to thrive mentally, emotionally and socially.”