Your Mental Well-Being Matters: What All Seniors and Elderly Americans Should Know
When's the last time you deeply pondered your own mental well-being? Are you unsure? As a senior, "mental health" may not be a topic you think much about. After all, many people in our society don't even know the best way to discuss it. So you certainly aren't alone if this subject isn't among your top considerations. But maybe it should be. By exploring this subject, maybe you'll gain new insights that will help you and others achieve a more satisfying life.
Your ongoing vitality is simply too important. Why overlook the mental aspects that contribute to it? Think about it: All of us have rich inner lives that are colored by strong beliefs, ever-changing thoughts, unique perceptions, and shifting emotions. Those things drive our actions and shape our overall sense of what it means to be human. But they can also affect our physical wellness, relationships, and general quality of life.
That's why positive changes are often the result of paying closer attention to our mental well-being. Regardless of whether you perceive yourself as young, middle-aged, or elderly, mental health has a major role to play. The better you understand it, the better you can thrive. So check out the following information. It may help you see this topic in a whole new light.
Why Your Mental Well-Being Is So Important
If you broke your arm, would you ignore it and go about the rest of your day as if nothing happened? Most likely, you wouldn't. The pain would become too intense. And leaving it alone would lead to even worse problems. So you would get it treated. And you'd probably do what you could to keep it from ever happening again. That's all very straightforward, right?
But what if the injury was more hidden? What if it was to your mind? Would you recognize that something was wrong? Even if you did, would you seek help right away or try to handle it all yourself while mostly denying that it's a real problem? Those questions probably aren't as easy to answer. When it comes to mental health, many people dance around the subject or downplay their experiences.
In fact, among seniors and the elderly, mental health issues are often misunderstood or marginalized. And that's unfortunate. Your mental wellness is every bit as important as your physical wellness. Left untreated, psychological problems and brain disorders can interfere with your ability to enjoy life, maintain relationships, or function on a day-to-day basis. They can also lead to visible physical illnesses and make it harder to heal from injuries or manage diseases you may already have.
In short, taking your mental well-being seriously is a major step toward achieving and sustaining a better quality of life.
The Most Common Mental Health Conditions in the Elderly and Senior Population
Did you know that about 15 percent of all adults over the age of 60 experience some kind of mental health problem?1 That means you probably know people who've been affected by conditions like the ones listed below—even if they've kept their challenges private. Just remember: None of these issues are considered by professionals to be normal parts of aging. Nor are they anything to be ashamed of. They are real conditions that can often be successfully treated or managed by getting professional help. Some of the most common mental health issues in the elderly and senior population include:
Risk Factors for Seniors
Mental health issues can have all kinds of different causes. In fact, they usually aren't caused by just one thing. Multiple factors—social, physical, and psychological—can interlink and lead to mental conditions that interfere with a person's life. Even if you're currently a healthy senior, mental health problems may develop in you or someone you care about at some point in the future. So it's wise to be aware of the risk factors, which can include things like:
Common Warning Signs
Sometimes, it's easy to tell that you or somebody you love may be experiencing mental health difficulties. But, sometimes, the signs aren't so obvious. They might be hidden or overlooked. That's why it's essential to know what to watch out for. When it comes to seniors (and mental health issues that might be affecting them), warning signs may include things such as:
- Sad or hopeless feelings that last more than a couple of weeks
- Unusual changes to mood, appetite, or energy levels
- Persistent sleeping difficulties or over-sleeping
- Persistent troubles with concentration
- Restlessness or feelings of being "on-edge"
- Decreased ability to cope with everyday stress
- Heightened irritability, hostility, or anger
- High-risk behaviors or actions that scare other people
- Persistent worrying about relationships or health or financial matters
- Obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions that disrupt normal day-to-day living
- A sense of emotional numbness
- Confusion in familiar settings or recurring difficulties with memory
- Heavier-than-normal alcohol consumption
- Excessive consumption of prescribed medications
- Persistent pain, headaches, or issues with digestion
- Suicidal thinking
If you or somebody you love is displaying warning signs like those above, seek professional help right away. The earlier you get assistance, the more effective any treatment is likely to be.
Prevention & Treatment: Mental Health Tips for Seniors
Everybody deserves to live with a sense of positive mental well-being. It's a big part of healthy aging. And it's definitely possible to achieve and sustain. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we're worth it. You and everyone you care about has a right to feel good. With that in mind, here are some tips for looking after your mental well-being:
Be proactive when it comes to your mental well-being. And don't be afraid to talk about it. You have every right to do whatever you can to feel your very best.
- 1 World Health Organization (WHO), "Mental health and older adults," website last visited on January 31, 2017.
- 2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, Issue Brief 1: What Do the Data Tell Us?, website last visited on January 31, 2017.