Mental Health

Mind your mental health!

Many seniors cope very well with stress, loss and other challenges, but one in five seniors will experience mental health problems that interfere with life. Unfortunately, many seniors never seek the help they need- it’s time for a change: 

  • Growing older doesn’t mean feeling sad or growing ‘senile’.
  • Being a senior is different from how it used to be. Seniors now have better health and live longer.
  • We now know that brains are not prewired to fail, and that depression and senility are not usual parts of aging. Rather, research shows self-rated happiness increases with each decade, despite losses or challenges associated with aging. Seniors have higher ratings of their own happiness than other population groups.
  • Some mental processes such as those involved in empathy, emotional stability and complex decision-making actually improve with age.
  • Aging is cause to celebrate – each year is another chance to savour and enjoy these advantages. And, having a healthy mental outlook might be one of the most important ingredients to living longer!
  • Some seniors do develop mental health issues and need professional help. Unfortunately, due to the stigma around mental illness, few seniors seek the treatment they need. Our culture is changing, and it is becoming easier for people to talk about mental illness.
  • It’s important to know that like physical illnesses, mental illnesses are treatable disorders and many will improve or completely resolve.

Where to start?

  • Challenge the stigma of mental illness: Encourage and support open conversations about mental health among your friends and family.
  • Practice some mindfulness: Mindfulness is a way of tuning into the present moment, as opposed to worrying about the past or the future. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. Mindfulness sessions are offered in the community and on-line.
  • Do things that give you a sense of purpose: Whether it is learning something new, volunteering, or setting a personal goal to take a daily walk, this will help you build confidence and bring balance to your life.
  • Practice daily self-care: Make your favorite food, sit outside, or visit the library every day try to do something just for you.
  • Mind your thoughts: Negative thoughts and worry can take a toll on your mental health. Make an effort to recall positive experiences. To learn more, see our section on Positive Thinking and try this free online workbook.
  • Ask for help: And then accept help! Make use of resources in general and check out the links below. If you think you may have a mental health issue, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone you trust – your doctor, pharmacist, minister, friends, or family.

Set a goal!

To tap into your fountain of health for optimal aging, set a mental health goal from the list above, choose one of your own or see our resources section for a positive thinking exercise and other helpful links. Remember the more specific, measurable and realistic your goal is, the more likely you are to succeed!

For example, if your mental health goal is to visit your family doctor to discuss concerns or learn more about mental health help and resources, then make a goal to book the appointment by a certain date, and write down some questions before you go. Try searching one of the mental health resources available on this website.

Once you set your mental health goal, keep track of it by emailing your goal to yourself, or share it with a trusted family member or friend ~ you might end up getting more support from them!

Share your goal:

Still not sure what to do?

Early detection is important, because while dementia is not reversible, there are interventions and treatments that can help. And for all of us, there are many things we can do to help prevent dementia – see the other sections on Optimal Aging to learn more. Please visit the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia or Life and Minds websites for more information on dementia and support services for those with dementia and their caregivers. This information is supported by research and scientific evidence. Please see our Evidence Base and our Resources section for more information.

What are some common mental health problems?