I’m often asked “why do you provide mental health services to seniors specifically”. Let’s first define mental health and mental illness to ensure we’re all on the same page. Although often used interchangeably the terms differ. Mental health refers to one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It generally affects the way we think, feel, and behave. Mental illness on the other hand is a health condition which involves changes with emotion, behaviors, and/or thinking. No one is exempt from the possibility of mental illness and everyone has mental health, some just better than others.
Mental Health Concerns and the War
So why seniors? Almost all of the living seniors were born between 1914 and 1954 (105-65 years old currently). Let’s briefly recap the significant world incidents that shaped their thinking and way of living during this 40 year span. Seniors today are the children of WWI Veterans and their spouses. They survived the Great Depression in the 30s; the Holocaust in 1940; and Pearl Harbor in 1941 marking the start of WWII. Now the children of WWI Veterans must head out to fight the second World War. Many women during that time had to enter the workforce in the absence of men fighting, which I’d imagine changed the dynamics within the family system. WWII ended in 1945, an exciting time indeed but was short lived thanks to the Vietnam War in 1955. Can you imagine?
I’m sure it’s safe to say that very few people at that time visited mental health professionals to debrief and process their thoughts and feelings surrounding these significant events. They simply pulled themselves up by their boot straps “shell-shocked” and all!
Living with the stressors that came with these significant events our now seniors went on to marry, start families, and build the America we know by hand while life continued to happen. Civil rights, voters rights, and the feminist movement also shaped the thinking of those living during the 10 year span following the start of the Vietnam War which had lasting effects.
Seniors Are Overlooked
It is easy for us to forget the challenges our seniors faced as we now live in a forward-thinking, fast paced, technology driven society where little attention is paid to senior mental health. We are not mindful of the fact that some seniors struggle with being empty nesters; widows/widowers; and unemployed (due to retirement, physical reasons, or barriers to resources). We assume it’s normal to cry when reminiscing about younger years and “the good ole days”. We become dismissive when seniors share their discomfort with body image by saying “that’s just a part of getting old”; and, we overlook seniors feeling dis-empowered when loved ones become their power of attorney no longer feeling able to make decisions for themselves.
Being aware of this information as well as other social challenges seniors face, when asked “why seniors” my response is simple, why not? It is necessary to care for our seniors just as they have cared (and continue to care) for us. They deserve to have their challenges acknowledged and their feelings validated. We have a responsibility to help our seniors become the best version of themselves.
The Premier Counseling team is available to assist you or your senior loved one if you’re facing challenging mental health concerns.