Mental wellness is essential at every stage of life—from adolescence through adulthood. In 2018, more than one in seven Americans was an older adult, aged 65 or older. As the aging population continues to grow rapidly, it’s more important than ever to focus on mental wellness throughout the entire lifespan.
Although many older people are at risk for mental health issues, this does not mean that mental illness is a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, although they face a higher risk of health problems. However, age-related changes can make you feel stressed, uneasy, or overwhelmed.
Whether you’re coping with a difficult diagnosis or navigating age-related changes, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Psychotherapy can help older adults manage their mental health and improve their quality of life.
Common Aging-Related Challenges
Many of the challenges older adults face are similar to those experienced by their younger counterparts. That said, change is an inevitable part of aging, and the aging process can create unique challenges. Some common aging-related challenges experienced by older adults include:
- Cognitive changes: Many older adults experience cognitive impairment, such as memory problems, affecting daily functioning and impacting emotional regulation.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Dementia, which affects nearly 14 percent of older people in the United States over the age of 71, involves more severe cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia, is characterized by changes in thinking, memory, and behavior.
- Health and physical changes: Older people have a greater risk of developing health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, or vision loss. Chronic pain may accompany health problems, creating further psychological distress.
- Loss and change: Older adults must often cope with the loss of close friends and family members and the subsequent grief, loss, and changes in their social network.
- Mental illness: Like the rest of the general population, mental disorders can affect older adults. Depression, anxiety, and sleep problems are among the most common mental health challenges older adults face.
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Treatment Options for Aging-Related Concerns
Whether you’re having difficulty adjusting to the changes that come with aging or you’re experiencing mental health concerns, it’s important to remember that professional help is available. Some helpful treatment options for older adults include:
- Therapy: Individual or group psychotherapy can help older adults feel better and improve their quality of life. Depending on your specific situation, psychotherapy might serve as your main form of treatment, or it might be used alongside medication, support groups, and other treatment options. Try searching for a therapist with experience working with older adults who can help you navigate your unique mental health concerns.
- Regular check-ups: Because health concerns tend to increase with age, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Your health care provider can rule out medical conditions that may be contributing to mental health symptoms, such as calcium deficiencies or cardiovascular disease. They can also provide treatment for any health conditions that may arise.
- Self-care: Your physical health is just as important as your mental health. Take steps to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and engage in regular physical activity. According to the American Psychological Association, self-care is key to healthy aging, as healthy lifestyle habits can influence the mental health of older adults.
- Social support: Connecting with family members and close friends can help combat loneliness, sadness, and other mental health challenges. If you need additional support, consider joining a support group for older adults or searching for support in your community, such as exercise classes for seniors. Senior Lifestyle offers senior support groups for older adults with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
- Hotlines: The Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line offers 24-hour support for older adults at 1-800-971-0016. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Therapy for Geriatric Issues
If you’re experiencing aging-related challenges, you’re not alone. While some people may not need or want support beyond that offered by family and friends, therapy can provide countless benefits. Therapy provides a safe space to express your feelings and navigate aging-related changes. It’s also a great place to learn practical advice and coping skills, especially if you’re facing a new diagnosis, experiencing health problems, or entering the beginning of a caregiving journey.
To find a mental health professional, reach out to a therapist through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a compassionate, experienced therapist you feel comfortable with based on your personal preferences and requirements. One of the licensed therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you regain strength, find support, and improve your quality of life.