The emotional health of an older person over the age of 60 can be a tricky one to decipher. Being aware of the emotional signs of the physical and mental challenges facing an individual while understanding how they feel, one is better able to respond more appropriately with empathy and support them during the most difficult times. Assessing how the ageing process affects mental health will help forge a strong connection when it is most needed. Understanding emotions is equally significant as treating physical health and for those vulnerable to mental strain later in life you can be sure there will be someone, who may seem fine on the outside, is struggling on in silence perhaps a close friend, carer or even a loved one.
Emotional health is just as volatile as physical health in that it can get better or worse according to an individual’s circumstances and old age is no exception. Some families have reported being confused about how to gauge the emotional health of their nearest and dearest. When broaching the subject be mindful that for some elderly people, they will be reluctant to talk about their emotions directly for various reasons. In some cases, they may react with embarrassment when talking about such subjects as mental health and depression. If an individual is used to keeping emotions in check for many years, either from upbringing or feeling under pressure to be strong for others, understandably big traumas might be dealt with in the same manner as the normal ebb and flow of life, even in the hardest of times like after a bereavement of a partner. Typically, physical signs of stress tend to show first, but awareness of emotional symptoms which follow provide extra clues about the underlying problems which may otherwise could go undetected.
The following are signs to beware of, but we all tend to respond differently to life’s challenges so anything that is not normal behaviour could be regarded as a red flag:
- Slow emotional reactions
- Emotional Numbness
- Unable to cry
- Memory Problems
- Angry Outbursts due to frustration
We suggest 3 routes that can help build up emotional resilience.
Therapy – Those with reduced mobility and living alone may develop emotional problems due to lack of contact with the outside world. In order to develop some coping strategies and emotional resilience, talk therapies are a great way to start such as cognitive therapy, mindfulness etc.
“Talking therapies encourage people to talk about their thoughts and feelings, and how these affect their mood and behaviours. They are delivered by a professional, such as a counsellor, clinical or counselling psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist or nurse. Each will have been trained in the respective approach and have a recognised qualification that is monitored by their professional body or the Health and Care Professions Council.” – Alzheimer’s UK: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/treatments/talking-therapies
However, support could be as simple as a friend lending an ear for a time to help someone explore their individual emotional issues. Gentle encouragement and active listening are an extremely effective tools to forge connection.
Learning Self Awareness and Acceptance – Emotional intelligence is derived from a flexible mindset and a preparedness for a change in direction away from the negative cycle of anger, negativity and depression which left unattended are prone to consume a person’s overall wellbeing. It is possible to learn more about how to maintain emotional health through positive experiences which will allow the adjustment of perspective needed for better mental health.
Group Activities – Those taking part in activities particularly within the same peer group will benefit from seeking companionship with others which includes planning and running of clubs, events and groups through volunteering, if only with the sole intent to interact with others and make new friends. Friendship groups can bring individuals together from a variety of backgrounds, many with a story to tell, others engaging in an activity related to a hobby or interest. There are those that are more vulnerable with mobility problems who rely on others to get about but are just as entitled to have something to look forward to during the week so transportation can be a big consideration for access to the local community.
Many of our events and friendship groups are on our Facebook feed: https://www.facebook.com/colchesterageconcern/
Also our comprehensive Events page is packed with clubs and societies to join the length and breadth of NE Essex: https://www.ageconcerncolchester.org.uk/events/