23 Apr 2022


A Problem That Affects Older Adults

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

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Mental Health among the Elderly

Research shows that the world population is aging at very high rate. It is estimated that by 2050 the word population of the elderly that is people above the age of 60 will have doubled what it is currently. Today the rate is at 12% and by 2015 it will be at 22%. The mental and emotional health of the elderly is vital as they are at any other stage in life ( Lehnert, et al, 2011) . In this group of people, it is estimated that about 6.6 % of them suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders. Moreover, about 15% of the elderly groups who are above the age of 60 suffer mental illness.

Those who are above 60 years contribute to the well-being of the society through volunteering as family members and active workforce participants. Most of elderly have perfect mental health but some suffer mental disorders, substance use issues, and neurological disorders. The elderly are easily affected by other medical issues such as hearing loss, diabetes and osteoarthritis. With age, many of the elderly suffer many health conditions all at once. 

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The Problem

In absolute terms, the estimated number of the elderly that is people above the age of 60 years, by 2050 is expected to be at 2 billion from the current 900 million. The physical and the mental challenges faced by the elderly are issues that need to be looked into ( Lehnert, et al, 2011) . Moreover, more than 20% of these adults suffer neurological disorders, and this is in exclusion of headaches and other mental health issues. 6.6 % of them who are disabled that is suffer from DALYs also known as the disability-adjusted life years; can attribute their conditions to mental disorders ( Birren, et al, 2013) . The disorders are accounted for in the 17.4 % which are Years Lived with Disability (YLDs).

The common neuropsychiatric disorders among the elderly are depression and dementia. 3.8% of the elderly population is also affected by anxiety disorders while 1% is substance users. The deaths that are associated with self-harm, quarter of them comprise of the older people. Issues such as drug addiction are often misdiagnosed and overlooked among the elderly. The mental issues are under-identified by both the older people and the health care professionals, and this is because of the stigma that surrounds the illness and thus making people reluctant to deal with it. 

Risk factors for the mentally ill among the elderly

The mental health of a person at any given point can be determined by the multiple biological, social and psychological factors. Most of the elderly become dependent and can no longer live on their own due to issues such as limited mobility, frailty, chronic health problems or mental and health problems that affect them. This makes them in constant need of care that is long-term in nature. The elderly experience events like bereavement which is the drop in the socioeconomic status as a result of retirement or disability ( Lehnert, et al, 2011) . These factors can cause the loss of independence, isolation psychological distress and loneliness among the elderly. 

The mental health affects the physical heath and vice versa. For instance, an elderly person suffering from a physical health issue such as heart conditions has a high rate of experiencing depression that a physically healthy elderly person. If depression is untreated among the elderly with the heart condition, this will, in turn, have an adverse effect on the general health. 

The elderly are also victims to various kinds of abuse such as sexual assault, physical violence, emotional, psychological and financial abuse; they also suffer from neglect, abandonment lack of respect and loss of dignity. Studies have proven that at least 1 in every ten older people suffers from one of these types of abuse ( Birren, et al, 2013) . The damage experienced by the elderly can result in physical injuries and more so to anxiety and depression. 

Depression and dementia among the elderly


Dementia is the condition in which one loses their thinking, memory, behavior and the capability to carry out the day to day activities. This condition mainly affects the elderly, but it is not a normal stage of the aging process. Studies show that at least 47.5 million people are suffering from dementia, and the estimate is likely to increase by 2030 to 75.6 million ( Karel, Gatz & Smyer, 2012) . The estimate will further increase by 2050 to 135.5 million with most of the affected being in the regions with low and middle income. 

There are enormous economic and social issues associated with the direct costs of informal, medical and social care given to the dementia patients. Also, emotional, physical, financial and physical pressures are very stressful to the patient’s families. A lot of support is required for the patients and the caregivers regarding social, financial and legal systems. 


Depression can lead to grave suffering and impairment of one’s functionality in their daily lives. 7% of the elderly suffer from unipolar depression with 5.7% of them being those with YLDs. Depression in the primary care settings is undertreated and underdiagnosed ( Yasamy, Dua, Harper & Saxena, 2013) . Depression is moreover overlooked among the elderly as it coincides with other health issues that are given more attention when getting care. 

The elderly who suffer from depression tend to have poor functionality when compared with those suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, lung diseases, and hypertension. Depression also increases the chances of recording poor health perceptions, use of health care and medical services costs. 

Care and Treatment Services

The health care practitioners and the public should be prepared in the provision of various needs to the elderly that may include; training the health professionals on how to look after the elderly, managing and preventing age-associated disorders such as substance use and neurological disorders, designing palliative and long-term care, and developing settings for age-friendly services ( Goldberg, et al, 2011)

Health promotion

The mental health of the elderly can be improved through the advocating for healthy living. Some of the procedures that need to be used to ensure healthy lifestyles among the elderly include creating surrounding and conditions that support their well- being and allow people to have integrated lifestyles. The promotion of healthy living can be done through ensuring that the elderly have access to their daily necessities ( Karel, Gatz & Smyer, 2012) . Some of the necessities may include ample security, adequate housing through the housing policies, social support to their caregivers, availing programs that look into the welfare of the elderly and other community development programs.



The prompt and fast looking into the issues that the elderly deal with is vital to address the substance use and neurological issues that the old go through. This means that there is the need for new inventions in the psychological and medicine fields. The cure for dementia is yet to be discovered. However, there are efforts that can be put for the improvement of the patients’, and caregivers lives as the process of taking care of these patients can at times be very challenging. 

Some of the efforts that can be put to help deal with this issue include; carrying out an early diagnosis as management of the condition when detected early is easier, optimization of the psychological and physical health and the wellness of the patients. Additionally, there is a need for carrying out a diagnosing on accompanying illnesses and treating them with immediate effect, identifying and managing the complicated psychological and behavioral symptoms, providing adequate information to the caregivers on how well to deal with the dementia patients. 

Mental health care for the community

Good social care and general health are imperative for the maintenance of the mental health among the elderly, and moreover for the management of chronic diseases. There is the absolute need to train the health and caregivers on how to handle the old and the best care to give them. There is also the need to have a community level mental care for the elderly. It is essential to avail a long-term care process for the elderly who suffer from mental and other physical disorders and at the same time ensure that the caregivers are well equipped with the right training and equipment to best care for these elderly. 

It is essential that a support and appropriate legislative environment be set up internationally that fosters and looks into the rights of the elderly and ensures that they have access to the medical care to deal with problems associated with aging. 


Lehnert, T., Heider, D., Leicht, H., Heinrich, S., Corrieri, S., Luppa, M. & König, H. H. (2011). Review: health care utilization and costs of elderly persons with multiple chronic conditions.  Medical Care Research and Review 68 (4), 387-420.

Birren, J. E., Cohen, G. D., Sloane, R. B., Lebowitz, B. D., Deutchman, D. E., Wykle, M., & Hooyman, N. R. (Eds.). (2013).  Handbook of mental health and aging : Academic Press.

Karel, M. J., Gatz, M., & Smyer, M. A. (2012),. Aging and mental health in the decade ahead: what psychologists need to know:  American Psychologist 67 (3), 184

Goldberg, S. E., Whittamore, K. H., Harwood, R. H., Bradshaw, L. E., Gladman, J. R., & Jones, R. G. (2011). The prevalence of mental health problems among older adults admitted as an emergency to a general hospital.  Age and ageing , afr106

Yasamy, M. T., Dua, T., Harper, M., & Saxena, S. (2013),. Mental health of older adults, addressing a growing concern:  Mental health and older people , 4-9.

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