For older adults in their “golden” years, what should they do when they find their later years aren’t so golden after all? A growing number are finding that the answer lies in mental health treatment.
A recent article in the New York Times described the increasing phenomenon of seniors seeking treatment for depression. Their generation grew up during a time when depression was viewed as a weakness rather than an illness. Many also grew up during a time when the treatment for mental illness was institutionalization. So overcoming ingrained attitudes and fears can be difficult.
Luckily, a variety of factors seem to be helping many older adults overcome fears of treatment. For one thing, societal attitudes about counseling and other forms of treatment have decreased, so seniors may feel less stigma when reaching out for help. Increased medical awareness about mental illness in older adults has led to better diagnosis of individuals who previously may have been assumed to have dementia.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that approximately 6.5 million individuals over the age of 65 in the U.S. are suffering from depression. In addition to these numbers, untold others deal with mental health concerns such as stress and anxiety, related to transitional issues in their lives; e.g., moving to less independent living arrangements, losing loved ones, coping with chronic health problems, etc. Finally, increased life expectancy makes older adults less likely to settle for decades of sadness, fear, or frustration.
We hope to see this growing trend in senior mental health continue. As older adults reach out for needed supports, their later years may become truly golden.