Aging baby boomers are the subject of magazine articles and newscasts, conversations around the dinner tables of American families, and chats over backyard fences. Topics range from available housing and long term care to the growing importance of geriatric mental health care.
Baby boomers are retiring by the thousands every day and by the end of the next decade, the elderly population will outnumber children in almost every country. Boomers are already living longer than their predecessors and life expectancy is predicted to increase even more by the end of the decade.
This shift in demographics brings a new set of concerns about mental health illnesses and the need to increase availability of geriatric mental healthcare.
Depression and anxiety disorders are not uncommon health ailments experienced by the senior community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “depressive disorders are a widely under-recognized condition and often are untreated or under-treated among older adults”.
- Multiple medical problems, medications and life stressors can adversely affect seniors’ physical health and ability to function.
- Events like the death of a loved one, financial difficulties, family conflict, can impact behavior and mental health as do poor living conditions, isolation, and disabilities.
Changes in memory function, cognition, and dementia-related illnesses require a specific approach. Symptoms are often diagnosed and treated by a primary care physician who is untrained in the fields of geriatric psychiatry and psychology.
Statistics show a reduced risk of mental illness, physical illness, and mortality when seniors are provided with proper physical and mental health care, advice and guidance, emotional and social support, and assistance with transportation, daily living tasks, and errands.
Seniors want and need to feel good while living out what could be an extended life. Recognizing that older adults have different psychological needs than the younger community, raising awareness about their needs, and educating caregivers about the importance of geriatric mental health will lead to happier and healthier members of our aging population.