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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

Wellness at Any Age: Senior’s Mental Health

Mental Health, Couples Therapy, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Ontario

Mental health is important for people of any age, but when coupled with other challenges that seniors face, its impact is heightened further. As the world’s population ages, the sheer number of seniors who are struggling with their mental health will grow. de Mendonça Lima & Ivbijaro point out that mental disorders may exacerbate the symptoms and functional disabilities associated with illnesses experienced by older adults. Additionally, mental health problems can have a great impact on older people’s ability to carry out daily tasks, which reduces their independency and quality of life. 


Understanding the Challenges of Aging 


Aging brings up all sorts of new feelings, both physical and emotional, that are considered a “normal” part of aging. Bad knees and reduced cognitive abilities, for example, are common with aging and not necessarily a mental health concern. But increased loneliness, depression, and anxiety can be red flags for bigger issues.  


According to Psychology Today, the socially isolated are more likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, and other mental health issues. Seniors are particularly susceptible to this, as many feel lonely more often. Why? Nearly 30% of people aged 60 and older live on their own. Compounded with retirement, a shrinking social group, and health issues, it’s easy to see why loneliness can creep up on you.  


Depression and anxiety are also key issues for older adults, with the CDC reporting that one-fifth of older adults have some type of mental health concern. If an individual experienced depression and anxiety earlier in life, it’s more likely to come up as an issue later. Further complicating things is vascular depression, which is depression caused by restricted blood flow. Also known as late-onset depression, this affects millions of people ages 65 and over every year. 


Mental Well-Being, Counselling, Counsellor, Ontario

Danielle Lancaster MCouns, RP (Qualifying) speaks about the challenges of aging by saying, “Older adulthood brings lots of transitions. Most older adults encounter retirement, housing changes, community evolutions, family shifts, and illness of friends, family, or themselves. Having a space to discuss these changes, process how they feel, and gain tools to navigate these shifts can help one to encounter them from a place of greater support, stability, and resilience.” 


Benefits of Therapy for Seniors 


Recognizing that your mental health needs attention is the first step to seeing the benefits of therapy. Whether you are an older adult who is struggling, or if you are thinking of your older family members, there are many positives to keep in mind when starting your therapy journey. Seasons Retirement offers insight to several of these, including:  


  1. Becoming More Positive & Reducing Loneliness 

Sometimes simply maintaining a positive outlook and social connection is a challenge; therapy can help!  


  1. Accepting a Difficult Health Situation  

Ignoring health issues doesn’t make them go away but sometimes older adults can have trouble with a difficult diagnosis. Therapy can help cope with this stress and with seeing a path forward.  


  1. Sort Through Loss & Grief 

As we age, so do friends and family, and so we tend to experience more loss as we get older. Experiencing a major loss or multiple losses can be difficult. Therapy can’t bring anyone back, but it can help sort through those difficult emotions.  


  1. Address Unresolved Issues 

If you’re still holding on to life events from long ago, these can creep back into the forefront of your mind as you age. Many older adults find it challenging to work through these issues solo; enlisting a trained therapist can drastically improve the path to healing. 


  1. Learning to Accept a Helping Hand 

Having experience going to therapy sessions can help our brains learn to be helped. This is useful because we lean on caregivers more and more as we age. What’s more, therapy helps to improve communication, so It's easier to talk to caregivers (personal and professional) as time goes on.  


Strategies for Maintaining Mental Wellness 


Boosting your mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. The Mental Health Commission of Canada offers 5 ways to boost your mood:  


  1. Stay Physically Active 

Regular walking and at-home fitness (even chores!) are great ways to keep physically active, which will boost your mood and increase energy.  


  1. Focus on Nutrition and Hydration 

Drink water, eat properly, get enough nutrients, and control your salt, sugar, and fat intakes. 


  1. Keep Up Social Connections 

Make time to connect with your family and friends, volunteer in the community, or join local clubs to make new connections with others who have similar interests.  


  1. Pursue Hobbies and Interests 

Do things you know you like or things you’ve always wanted to try. Dancing, cooking and baking, gardening, and travel are just a few ideas. For a more mental stimulation, try playing games, reading, or writing.  


  1. Check For Early Signs  

Be aware of the early signs to watch for in yourself or your loved ones, including unexpected and unexplainable changes, decreased interest in regular activities, an ongoing depressed or anxious mood, and withdrawing from social activities can be key signs. 


How to Seek Help 


At any stage in life, it’s important to find the right therapist for your needs. That holds true for older adults as well; results are likely to be better with a therapist that is a good fit for you. Some considerations are:  


  • Age Preference: therapists can range from students fresh out of school to older adults with years of experience. Your personal preference may impact your ability to trust and bond with your therapist.  


  • Training and Techniques: older adults may have greater success with problem-solving therapy (PST) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 


  • Benefits and Coverage: if you have health benefits that will cover the cost of therapy, in whole or in part, make sure you are working with a therapist your insurance provider will cover 


  • In-Person or Online Options: in our every connected community, online therapy offers sessions for those who are more comfortable in their own space or may physically be unable to visit a therapy office. 



Supporting Caregivers and Family 


If you are supporting a loved one who is experiencing mental health issues as they are aging, remember to look after yourself. It isn’t weak or selfish; it is ensuring you are in shape to care for someone else.  


Katarina Guillen, MA, RP

“Think of the phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’”, says Katarina Guillen, MA, RP. “Consider reaching out to a trusted friend or loved one, another caregiver, community groups, or caring professionals that can offer support.”  She adds, “It is always more manageable to support others from a strong base, and sometimes that means attending to your own stressors or finding comfort and support from others. 


Looking after your own mental health is one of the keys to successfully caregiving for older adults who are struggling with mental health. 


Relationship Matters Therapy Centre is a private therapy practice in downtown Galt, serving Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Guelph in-person, or Ontario-wide online. If you’re looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at, or by phone at 226-894-4112. 


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