With the rising population of elderly in India, due to rising life expectancy the percentage of the population above the age of 60 is steadily rising. Ageing is a process that affects not only the physical capabilities of an individual, but also the psychosocial aspects of his or her life. To be declared mentally healthy, an individual must not only be psychologically stable, but also be able to use all the cognitive functions and thought process effectively.
In India, due to the changing social and economic realities, the mental health of the elderly is largely neglected. In a typical Indian household, the main factors causing mental health issues in the elderly are: –
- Generation Gap-
The race of westernization and the resulting urbanization has severely damaged our traditional joint-family setup, leading the younger generation to belittle the responsibility of taking care of their elderly, and choose an independent nuclear family arrangement to escape from it. The weakening of this social structure has trapped an entire generation of elderly within four walls with no social security from the Government, and no one to share their grief and anxiety with.
- Lifestyle Changes –
The ever-expanding generation gap has also brought with it rapid lifestyle changes, that the older generation is unable to cope with. Be it meal timings, choice of food, or quality of sleep, the rapid changes in lifestyle can cause great deal of mental stress in the elderly, which can lead to serious mental health issues.
- Loss of Authority and Importance-
Once the head of the family, a parent might expect the same love and respect from his or her children to whom the yoke has been handed over. However, in most cases, with the loss of authority, the elderly are neglected and their requests and wishes are largely ignored by their children. This can lead to severe depression, and resulting memory loss and other physical changes in the elderly population.
- Poor Adaptability –
Due to some personality traits, some individuals fail to accept or adapt with the changing lifestyle, and this can often lead to arguments and unnecessary war of words between the elderly and the care givers in the family. This can result in elder abuse by the care giver, which can cause further worsen the mental condition of the elderly.
- Bereavement and loss of familiar environment –
Another major factor that affects the mental health of the elderly in the country is losing someone or something familiar. Bereavement or being unable to go back to a familiar setting can cause severe depression in the elderly, which might result in serious mental health issues.
If you are worried about the mental health of your ageing loved one, help is not far. While there are not enough government initiatives in providing adequate mental health care for the elderly, there are online networks like Insighte that can connect you with the brightest counsellors and psychotherapists specialised in handling the mental health of the elderly.