September 11, 2020

Aging can impact the brain and mental health, though it is not inevitable. Research about mental health disorders and aging suggests that seniors may have genetic factors that can lead to mental health issues, much like genetics can inform a person’s risk of cancer and other illnesses. The changes that naturally occur with growing older can impact mental health as well.

How Age Affects Mental Health

Lots of aspects of our lives change as we age. The following factors can have a major impact on mental health:

  • Retirement: The end of working life can be challenging to adjust to. Retirees often face a different schedule, reduced social contact and even financial changes. The stress of these changes, even when they are positive, can impact mental health.
  • Chronic medical conditions: Seniors are more likely to deal with significant health issues such as mobility problems, age-related macular degeneration and arthritis. Managing these health concerns can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Social network loss: Seniors may find similarly-aged friends and family pass away. Widowhood and a smaller social circle can mean a risk of depression and loneliness.
  • Elder abuse: Elder abuse may affect as many as one in six seniors. Often perpetrated by caregivers, it can be difficult to detect and victims can be reluctant to speak up. This form of abuse can involve financial, sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse and it can lead to substance abuse issues, isolation, depression, loneliness, anxiety and other challenges.

In addition to these social and environmental factors, an aging brain can impact mental health as well. Some seniors develop chronic illnesses such as dementia, which can lead to memory loss, cognitive decline and even hallucinations.

Maintaining Mental Health

An individual’s golden years don’t have to include mental health conditions. Many seniors maintain excellent overall health. Several factors can help contribute to good mental health, including:

  • Good lifestyle habits: A healthy diet, exercise, proper rest and regular medical care can keep the entire body, including the mind, healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking and alcohol can affect the brain in positive ways, too.
  • Strong social networks: Social interactions and friendships help prevent loneliness and can help reduce anxiety by offering a place of support and camaraderie.
  • Medical treatment: Treating chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease can reduce painful symptoms and can increase an individual’s quality of life, which can improve outlook and mental health in turn.
  • Positive activities: Pursuing hobbies and interests keeps the brain engaged, which is important for mental and cognitive health.
  • Support: In cases where a mental health concern does develop, early and appropriate intervention is important for seniors. When caught early, many mental health conditions can be treated with medication or other forms of treatment.

If you live in the Sacramento and Folsom, California area and need mental health support for a senior, Advanced Psychiatry Associates is a full-service psychiatric facility that can help. Our team offers counseling services, genetic testing, psychotherapy and medication management to patients of all ages. Schedule an appointment today to find out what we can offer.