Today the world’s population is aging at a rate of true vertigo . According to the trends that are managed today, in the year 2050, 22% of the inhabitants of the world will be over 60 years old . In absolute terms, this implies a population of 2 billion people over the age of 60 globally.
In relation to the mental health of the elderly, more than 20% of them suffer from some type of mental disorder. Throughout life there are many social, biological and psychic factors that determine, to a greater or lesser extent, people’s mental health.
In the elderly this becomes especially relevant because many older people have physical difficulties that reduce their autonomy , which negatively influences their mental health. To this must be added other frequent events in old age such as the death of loved ones or the decline in the economic level due to retirement. Factors that can end up causing isolation, loneliness and anguish to the elderly.
There is no doubt that physical health has a significant influence on mental health, and vice versa. To take a very clear example, some studies show that older people with certain diseases of the cardiovascular system have a higher risk of depression.
Mental health in older people
Old age is one of the most special stages of life. Sometimes it is a phase of fulfillment in which older people have the opportunity to enjoy and rest. However, on other occasions certain events can take place that cause great stress : chronic illness that forces a change of life, loss of a loved one, loneliness, depression …
You have to pay a lot of attention when an older person has certain symptoms that can point to a mental illness. Sometimes these are confused with physical ailments.
Some of these warning signs are: low self-esteem , lack of appetite, frequent crying, disturbed sleep, pessimism, general malaise, physical fatigue and lethargy.
Tips to take care of mental health in older people
Although some mental illnesses are inevitable, such as Alzheimer’s , there are some tips that are worth taking into account to take care of the health of the mind during old age . They are very simple recommendations but at the same time extremely important to promote the well-being of the elderly.
Food is very important during all stages of life, but especially in old age. A healthy and balanced diet is essential to take care of both physical and mental health.
You have to provide the brain with all the nutrients it needs: Omega 3, iron, vitamins, folic acid and antioxidants. The healthiest foods are fish, fruit, vegetables …
Of course, it is also very important to practice moderate physical exercise three or four times a week. Depending on your physical condition and your special needs, you can choose one exercise or another. For example, swimming is a very healthy sport and accessible to practically everyone.
Physical exercise has a wide range of benefits for the health of the elderly: it improves sleep quality, increases autonomy, strengthens muscle mass, prevents osteoporosis … It’s worth it!
Meditation is also a great way to take care of mental health in older people. Currently there is a large selection of schools and gyms that teach relaxation techniques such as yoga or tai-chi .
Its benefits for the mind are many since they allow to achieve a great sensation of well-being, which contributes to the elderly feeling better both about themselves and with others.
It is essential to take care of social relationships in old age . Isolation and loneliness are precisely two of the factors that most affect the development of diseases such as dementia or depression.
That a person is older does not imply that he cannot face new challenges . Old age is a great stage of life to learn and expand knowledge.
Depending on your tastes and preferences, you can propose, for example, to learn a new language or even sign up for a computer course.
Most frequent mental illnesses in the elderly
Although in many cases they go unnoticed, the truth is that it is essential to pay maximum attention to mental illnesses in older people.
Dementia is one of the most common mental disorders in older people . It affects memory, as well as the capacity for attention and concentration . As dementia progresses, the elderly also experience changes in behavior and even an inability to perform certain activities of daily life.
Currently there are about 48 million people around the world who suffer from dementia; The number is expected to skyrocket to 135.5 million in 2050.
The causes of dementia can be many; these are some of them.
- Alzheimer’s: this is the most common of all, occurring in 70% of dementia cases.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency: although it is not very common, some cases of this disease also occur as a result of low levels of vitamin B12 in the body for a long period of time.
In practically all cases the patient himself is not aware that he has dementia; it is the people around him who detect the disease. The first symptoms are very mild and are related to slight memory disturbances , which are sometimes related to fatigue or stress.
As the disease progresses, the person begins to present difficulties in their social relationships: forgets names, repeats the same question several times … It is also common for disorientation and loss of notion of time to occur .
Depression is another of the mental illnesses that most affect older people; It is estimated that around 8% of the elderly worldwide suffer from it. One of the main problems it presents is that its symptoms are often overlooked, associating them with age and / or other diseases.
The causes that can trigger depression in older people are vast. From physiological factors such as migraine or hypothyroidism to personal and even environmental factors.
There are several symptoms that can alert you to depression: depressed mood, lack of interest in daily activities and increased feelings of fatigue.
Generally, the elderly feel without energy to carry out their day-to-day tasks and lose the capacity for both attention and concentration. Guilt is also a common feeling in people with this disease.
A severe depression in old age can lead to certain eating disorders due to loss of appetite.
Sometimes we pay a lot of attention to taking care of physical health, but it is also very important that we take care of our brain . It is worth taking into account the tips that we have explained to enjoy good mental health in old age; They are very simple tips but they are of great help at this stage of life.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.