Imagine Health

Psychology of Old Age

With massive advances in wellness and medicine, the current population enjoys a much healthier and longer lifespan. While the population over 65 is growing considerably, their lifestyle has also advanced. Older people might live independently, work into old age, and take an active role in their community. It is believed that mental health problems are a “normal” aspect of ageing but most older people don’t develop mental health problems, and they can be helped if they do. While a significant number of people do develop dementia or depression in old age, they aren’t an inevitable part of getting old.

Throughout life we all experience loss and as we get older our losses increase in volume. Losses can include-loss of family members, friends, spouse, siblings, status, physical mobility, hair, hearing etc. Although it is not inevitable, it is not surprising that ageing and depression often go together. According to the American Psychological Association, there are also mental health conditions that are more prevalent in those of advanced age.

Senior Lifestyle and Health

There are a range of different problems in relation to senior lifestyle and health these include:

  • Mental capacity. Mental capacity is always a concern for seniors because they are more prone to dementia. Which can impede their capability to care for themselves mentally.
  • Physical Health. With age, there can be complications with physical health. Depending on the severity, physical restrictions may cause seniors to lose some of or all their independence.
  • Emotional Well being. Seniors often undergo a lot of change, such as loss of loved ones and failing health. These traumatic events can lead to depression and other psychological hardships.

Attitude Towards Ageing

“You’re only as old as you feel” the old saying goes. And maybe it’s worth paying attention to it. Research has found that regardless of your current age, your attitude towards ageing has a huge impact on your overall health. This has been shown in research from Trinity College Dublin- The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). It found that negative attitudes about ageing affect both physical and cognitive health in your later years. Most evident was that participants in the study who held positive attitudes towards ageing had improved cognitive ability as they aged.

The study, resulted in the following findings:

  • Older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing had slower walking speed and poorer cognitive abilities two years later.  Compared to older adults with positive attitudes towards ageing.
  • Frail older adults are at risk of multiple health problems including worse cognition. In the TILDA sample, frail participants with negative attitudes towards ageing had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail. In contrast, frail participants with positive attitudes towards ageing had the same level of cognitive ability as their peers who were not frail.

 

Written by Rebekka Johnston


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