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Published on 23rd, February 2023
Read time 5 min

Dealing with mental health changes in old age


As our loved ones age, they may experience different or unique mental health issues compared to younger people due to changes in health and life circumstances.

Not everyone will experience these changes, and there are many ways to maintain good mental health in old age. Adopting healthy habits, such as staying physically active, eating a balanced diet, and staying socially engaged, can help promote good mental health and well-being.

Some of the common unique mental health issues that older people may experience include:

Increased risk of cognitive decline

Ageing is a significant risk factor for cognitive decline, and many older adults may experience mild cognitive impairment or dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which can cause memory loss, confusion, and behavioural changes.

Greater difficulty sleeping

Many seniors experience sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or waking up early in the morning.

More acute feelings of grief and loss

Older people may have to face feelings of grief and loss related to the death of loved ones, social isolation, or the loss of independence more acutely, as these may become common occurrences.

Greater vulnerability to stress

The elderly may become more vulnerable to stress due to changes in physical health, social circumstances, and life transitions. If not managed, this could lead to anxiety and depression.

Increased risk of depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety are common mental health issues that can affect the elderly, especially if they have chronic physical health conditions, chronic pain, a disability, or experience social isolation.

If left untreated, this may lead to feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, or a sense of burden to others, which form precursors to possible suicidal ideation.

Increased risk of late-life psychosis


Late-life psychosis can manifest as delusions or hallucinations and may be related to medical conditions or medication use.

Greater risk of substance abuse and addiction

Older adults may be at greater risk of developing substance abuse or addiction issues, especially if they use prescription medications to manage physical or mental health conditions.

Some may also turn to other substances to cope with physical or emotional pain.

Good habits to build to support your mental health during ageing

There are many ways to maintain good mental health in old age. Adopting healthy habits, such as:

  • staying physically active;
  • eating a balanced diet;
  • staying socially engaged; and
  • engaging in personal hobbies

It’s important for older people to seek professional help if they experience any mental health issues, as early detection and treatment can help improve outcomes and quality of life.


Here are some resources to help you or your loved one take care of your mental wellbeing: