The growing need to address mental health issues among people over 60 in India
India’s rapid economic development has brought great prosperity, much of which has been achieved through the sacrifice and hard work of a generation now retiring. Their dedication meant leading busy lives with very little time for themselves. Bigger dreams have meant sending children to distant places in India or abroad, so that they can achieve their goals and desires in life. Paradoxically, a smaller, well-connected digital world has only increased the distances between families and societies. And amid the hectic life, a generation of retirees now faces the challenge of coping with loneliness, as time-tested family systems have crumbled.
Retirement causes a sudden change in a well-established routine in the person’s life, which is often confusing and overwhelming. This is also accompanied by a loss of social connections and interactions within the peer group, leading to increased insecurity. Society also associates retirement with dependency, which leads to lower self-confidence and self-esteem in the retiree. At first, retirement meant spending quality time with family and enjoying the rest of your life, but nowadays retirement means spending time alone as most families’ children move out of town. These massive changes are very difficult to manage and often lead to increased anxiety and depression. In today’s fast-paced society, it’s an increasingly quiet issue among older people that isn’t talked about so much.
The lack of physical contact due to high travel costs only increased the level of stress and anxiety for the parents. They visualize their future without any support, but are reluctant to speak out due to various constraints. Conflicting desires to see their children prosper as well as to have physical closeness further increase the stress on mental well-being. With the increasing life expectancy and the increased settlement of the next generation away from the place of origin, the empty house syndrome is expected to increase further. There is an urgent need to address the aspect of lack of social support for mental health in our country.
The WHO estimates that more than 20% of people over the age of 60 face mental or neurological disorders. The challenges of declining physical capacity and functional abilities, coupled with social isolation and reduced support from family and society, make seniors vulnerable. Loneliness is a major accelerator, leading to early onset of mental health issues with depression and dementia, both being two of the most common issues. In the early stages of mental health problems, people experience changes in their social lives, with friends and family becoming frustrated with them. They tend not to remember things like keys or how to get back from a new place, even routine activities become more difficult. People with dementia can sometimes become more aggressive or agitated when they do not understand what is happening to them or what is going on around them.
The biggest obstacle to diagnosis is often a person’s reluctance to accept that a problem exists. Reluctance may stem from societal pressures or financial constraints or a lack of mental health awareness. Due to a lack of knowledge, mental health issues in older adults are often overlooked or ignored. Seniors are a high-risk group and therefore it is important to monitor their mental health.
Some of the mitigation measures include increased communication within the family and increased awareness of mental health issues. Seniors and their families must be willing to talk about the problem and accept that such a mental health problem develops within the family. It is important to seek medical help and not associate medical help with any form of social stigma. The focus should be on improving emotional, physical, and social well-being to create a happier environment. Adults in the family should always encourage parents and elders to be socially active by getting involved with neighbours, relatives and friends. Hobbies like reading, gardening, cooking, or even devotional activities help keep their minds sharp and active, which builds their confidence and increases their positivity, which reduces the chances of any mental health issues.
Although we all talk about mental health issues with today’s Millennials, it’s important to understand that there is a generation that is older than us and needs emotional support and guidance. equal attention.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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