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Mental health and older people

Older people are as susceptible to mental health problems as younger people, having to cope with ongoing illness, pain, and the death of a partner and friends.

There is evidence of a high level of depression and anxiety in older people who are socially isolated. There is a connection between social isolation and poor physical health.

There are certain groups who are more at risk of a decline in mental wellbeing. These include;

  • Carers
  • Recently separated or divorced
  • Those living alone with little opportunity to socialise
  • Recently retired
  • Unemployed in later life
  • Those on a low income
  • People suffering from a recent health problem or with an age related disability
  • People who have had to give up driving

Evidence suggests that older people above the age of 65 benefit from group activities linked to hobbies, interests and learning opportunities. These activities include singing, support with using computers, mobile phones and technology, arts, crafts, inter-generational and tailored physical activities.

Older people with higher level assessed physical, mental or social needs should have access to Occupational Therapy in groups or one-to-one to achieve their potential, particularly those who are the most disadvantaged in terms of physical or learning disabilities, those on low incomes, living in social or rural isolation or from minority ethnic groups.

Older people often fail to recognise that they have a mental health problem, dismissing low mood and loss of interest in their community and surroundings as an inevitable part of ageing.

This is not always the case, and therefore if you have been feeling low, it is important to contact your GP.

There are ways you can look after your mental health:

Keeping connected

Keeping connected with others via group activities, mentoring and befriending.

These can be accessed through our Community Wellbeing Hubs.

Lifelong learning

Many older people say that their learning activities give them a sense of purpose and boost their self-esteem, combating social isolation and depression, enabling them to make new friends who provide the opportunity for them to talk about issues which may be bothering them.

Adult Community Learning have a range of courses available.


Volunteering can increase self-confidence and self-esteem as helping others provides a sense of accomplishment, pride and identity, and therefore helps to change negative self-perceptions. It also provides a good opportunity to meet others.


Taking notice of surroundings, and being mindful about feelings in the present moment promote good mental health and wellbeing.

Mindfulness also allows people to become more aware of thoughts and feelings that they experience and to see how they can become entangled in negative thought processes, which provoke anxiety and depression.

NHS Choices has a range of information about mindfulness and how it can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood.

Be active

Guidelines advocate regular aerobic activity such as brisk walking, and muscle strengthening activities.

Exercise is also beneficial for more dependent adults, with evidence suggesting that supervised walking can be beneficial.

Aerobic activity also helps maintain cognitive function by improving circulation, regulating blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing the risk of developing dementia.

See our leisure centre pages for more information about our available activities

Last reviewed: 218/10/2017

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