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The Importance of Mental Health Care for Aging Individuals

Barry Kornfeld

Barry M. Kornfeld is an experienced financial advisor and the principal of First Financial Tax Group. In addition to developing retirement strategies to meet the unique personal and financial goals of his clients, Barry Kornfeld takes an interest in the psychology of aging.

As individuals age into older adulthood, they often become more concerned with their physical health, seeking to stave off health conditions commonly associated with old age. However, a growing body of research suggests that older individuals should take a similarly diligent approach to maintaining their mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, the number of seniors with mental health challenges will reach 15 million by 2030, nearly quadrupling from its level in 1970. Moreover, LIFE Senior Services estimates that up to 20 percent of older adults are living with mental health challenges today.
As older adults confront the many changes associated with aging, a number of factors can contribute to the development of mental or behavioral health challenges. Their own physical health issues, illness or disability experienced by loved ones, the stress of familial conflict, and the grief of loss can all result in emotional challenges for aging adults.
Mental health is also closely linked to physical health. Older individuals with heart disease experience higher rates of depression, and research has indicated that untreated depression can lower one’s immunity and worsen the outcome of not only heart disease, but also infections, cancers, and other conditions.
At present, senior citizens are less likely than other segments of the population to seek treatment for mental health challenges. For this reason, it is important for the medical community to prioritize education and ongoing research in the field of geropsychology. On a broader scale, it is also important for the public at large to seek to normalize mental health care for individuals of all ages, and adopt mental wellness as a core aspect of older individuals’ overall health care strategies.

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