Better Mental Health for the Elderly

It is well documented that getting older can present new challenges on our bodies, but there are huge changes that can have a devastating impact on our mental health: retirement, bereavements, loss of independence, physical deterioration. If we don’t take care of ourselves as we become elderly, the effect these changes can have can be alarming, including the onset of depression and anxiety and dementia. However, they are avoidable; here is a quick guide on how to look after our mental health in later years.


Work is such a huge component of our life, and for some people, it can be the main aspect that defines who they are and gives them a sense of self-worth, an income and is their main point of contact with other people. This might not be true of everyone, a lot of people are ready to retire with plenty of hobbies, family and friends to keep them occupied afterwards (although it’s worth noting that, just because you’re retired, you shouldn’t become too busy with providing childcare and other help to family – make time for yourself), but for those who love their work life, retirement can cause feelings of isolation and pointlessness. It’s a good time to find new interests – this can seem daunting and it may take a few tries, but you’ll find a sense of purpose and stay social if you have more pastimes – try the local amateur dramatics society ( has a list of lots of am dram groups in the UK), an exercise class or maybe the University of the Third Age. If possible, try something that attracts people of all ages – it’s good to keep in touch with younger and older generations to stay aware of changes to the world and prevent feelings of isolation.


Dying is a part of life and something we all have to cope with. Unfortunately, experiencing the deaths of people close to us may occur more often as we age. Remember that there are no set ways to cope with grief and so you must never judge yourself for how you react – you may feel numb, disbelief, anger, guilt or shock. You may even feel relieved if the person who died had been ill. A lot of people talk about an overwhelming sense of emptiness, which may pass with time and support, but may become depression. It may feel like you don’t want to, or don’t have the energy to, care for yourself, see other people and you may struggle to sleep. If this happens, you must see a doctor – especially if you have suicidal thoughts. You need to remember to keep taking any medication you need and do be open to other options. There are physical symptoms to grief, such as shortness of breath and an increased heart rate that you may need extra help with. If your life partner has passed away, you may feel lonely and afraid of being alone. You might have to learn new skills if your partner always took care of certain aspects of day-to-day life. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help or, alternatively, there are lots of helplines you can call if you need to talk. Age UK have an advice line especially for the elderly: 0800 169 65 65, or visit their website:

Loss of Independence

Feeling reliant on others and losing independence as your physical abilities decline, especially when your mind is still as sharp as ever, can be exceedingly frustrating. You want to live independently, cook for yourself, do your own chores and everyday activities, but there are certain things that cause worry. What if you injure yourself when there is no one there to help? Do you feel able to protect yourself during a break in? Helpline personal care alarms can give you peace of mind in these scenarios. They can be in the form of a discreet, waterproof wrist strap or pendant button that, when pressed, at any time, raises an alarm which immediately lets Helpline’s Response Centre know who is in trouble and where. They will assess the situation and contact either the emergency services, a doctor or a loved one. This means that help is always on hand without you having to reach a phone or remember a contact number. In addition to the care alarm, Helpline also offer key safes. These are small boxes, approved by the police, that hold a key to the property and are fitted outside the door. They have a combination known only to you and Helpline, that can be revealed also to the emergency services should they need to enter the property quickly. To learn more about the process of installing an alarm or a safe, have a look at Helpline’s website.

Reducing the risk of dementia

Alzheimer’s Society have created a list of six things we can all do to reduce the risk of developing dementia when we are elderly. They include:

  • Physical exercise – within each week you should try to do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as swimming, and some strengthening activities, like gardening.
  • A balanced diet – and don’t forget your fluid intake.
  • Not smoking – smoking significantly increases the risk of dementia, as well as other conditions such as strokes and lung cancer. If you do smoke, talk to your GP about quitting.
  • Drink less alcohol – aim for under 14 units a week and try to spread those out over a few days. Try alternating with fruit juice or choose drinks with a low alcohol content.
  • Keep your mind active – stimulating your brain builds up its ability to cope with disease. Learn a new skill, do puzzles or read challenging books. Activities where you communicate with other people are also shown to reduce the risk.
  • Care for your health – if you have any physical niggles, hearing difficulties or are worried about your mental health, go to the doctor – dealing with those can help.