As members of the Baby Boomer generation reach what was once considered their “golden years,” many are re-defining what it means to be an older adult. Instead of retirement and rocking chairs, they’re working longer and living more active lifestyles than their parents ever did. But while Baby Boomers tend to be more physically healthy than previous generations, many people struggle to address a key component to overall wellness: their mental health.
People are often surprised to learn that rates of mental health disorders are rising fastest among Baby Boomers: it’s estimated that 20% of people age 55 or older experience some type of mental health issue, and the number of older adults with depression is expected to double between 2010 and 2030. We go through a lot of changes as we age such as death of loved ones, medical problems, or retirement that can make us feel uneasy, stressed, or sad. It’s normal to go through an adjustment period before starting to feel well again. But if these feelings persist and begin interfering with daily life and normal functioning, it’s time to seek the treatment needed to feel better. Unfortunately older adults are often hesitant to reach out for help due to persistent stigma around mental health issues and generational differences in how these disorders are perceived.
If you want to help someone you care about get the support they need, here is some advice for starting the conversation:
- Show that you’re concerned in a way that is not confrontational or judgmental. Let them know that you care about them, and you want to check in because you’re concerned about recent changes you’ve noticed in their mood or behavior.
- Keep questions simple. Ask how they’re doing, what they’re feeling, and how you can help provide support.
- Offer reassurance and hope. Let them know that they’re not alone, and that you‘re there to support them in actively seeking help to feel better.
- Avoid phrases that could sound dismissive or accusatory. Although you may not understand what they’re feeling, it’s important to only express your unwavering support.
- Suggest reaching out to a local recovery support resource. Ask if they have thought about seeking support from a professional trained to help with these types of issues. Consider having some suggestions ready to share, or offer to research local resources together.
- After your initial conversation, stay engaged with your loved one and check in regularly. Having consistent support from family and friends can make a huge difference in people’s well-being.
Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting wellbeing within our communities. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.
To learn more, please talk to your New West Physicians doctor, a mental health professional or Senior Reach, a program providing one-on-one support for seniors. Visit the Senior Reach website or call (866) 217-5808.