Mental health and emotional well-being become even more important in old age as individual faces different types of physical, mental and emotional challenges which come with time. Mental and neurological disorders among older adults account for 6.6% of the total disability (DALYs) for the 60-plus age group. Approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. 

Some of the most common mental health illnesses found in the elderly include dementia, depression, anxiety disorders and severe cognitive impairment among others. Almost 40 per cent of people aged 85 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s and related Dementia. At the global level, the number of people living with dementia is expected to nearly double every 20 years. Depressive disorders and symptoms also affect many older persons, particularly the most vulnerable among them living in long-term care facilities.

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How does Loneliness Affect Mental Health?

There is an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, lack of meaningful involvement post-retirement, little or no social interaction, feelings of insecurity, chronic illness & deterioration in health, and hearing and sight loss. Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. 

Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Emotional wellness in old age is one of the basic requirements of the elderly for happy and healthy ageing.

Social embeddedness in the realms of the family and the broader community and alleviation of loneliness are central issues in the construction of social and emotional well-being and quality of life. It is important to identify the mechanisms responsible for creating either social embeddedness or loneliness.

Emotional well-being for seniors refers to the ability to manage feelings and behaviors, cope with challenges, and feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life. For the elderly, maintaining emotional health is crucial as they face unique challenges such as health issues, loss of loved ones, and often, a decrease in independence.

Importance of Emotional Support for the Elderly

Emotional support is critical for the elderly because it can significantly impact their overall health and quality of life. Supportive relationships and positive interactions help mitigate feelings of loneliness and depression, which are common in older adults. Emotional support also contributes to a sense of belonging and can improve resilience against physical and mental health challenges.

How to Meet Emotional Needs of Elderly?

Here are some of the ways through which the emotional needs of elderly people can be met:

1. Staying Connected with loved ones and family

Loneliness is one of the major feelings that the elderly experience as their close friends and immediate family circles become progressively smaller. Loneliness not only leads to a feeling of alienation and unhappiness but is a major cause of mental health issues like Depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hence the family and friends need to stay connected with the elderly to help them overcome the feeling of loneliness. In today’s world, digital media is the easiest way to remain connected with family, friends and relatives whether it's through social media platforms or virtual online video calling options. Just a message is enough to cheer up an elderly. If possible the family should try to regularly meet them at festivals and special occasions and celebrations like birthdays etc. to cheer them up. Children and grandchildren should spend quality time with the elderly at home.

2. Enable & Empower the Elderly for independent living

Making them have a sense of independence at the stage of life when they need support in doing small tasks is very important, especially for individuals who used to do everything on their own. However, with old age they are they become dependent on others which gives them a feeling of helplessness. It is therefore of utmost importance to make them feel empowered and provide the help they need without any delays. 

Make them feel that their needs are a priority for the family and enable them by providing them with a support system to do things on their own and independently. 74% of senior citizens in India stay alone and if we could provide them with necessary support services it would enable and empower them to live independently.

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3. Minimize frustrations and potential arguments

It is not advisable to expect them to change at the pace the world is changing. Thus being a good listener is an important quality of the caregiver to avoid conflicts and arguments which shall keep them happy.

4. Give priority to their health

Healthy body and mind are two sides of the same coin. A good nutritive diet, proper sleep, some form of exercise, and meditation not only lead to a healthy physical body but also a healthy mind leading to emotional well-being.

5. Keep them engaged in some activity

Meaningful engagement in any social activity, pursuing a hobby or acquiring a new one, mentoring others, teaching or looking after grandkids, and taking up part-time employment shall not only keep them busy but also give them the satisfaction of being meaningfully involved in something they would enjoy doing.

Having patience, empathy, and compassion towards the elderly in their day-to-day lives when their body becomes weak, memory starts fading and understanding and adopting new ways of life becomes a challenge.

It makes them feel comfortable and loved while receiving assistance with empathy and compassion and it provides an opportunity for us to understand them better.

Providing timely assistance and emergency support services such in the case as medical and emergency gives a sense of mental relief for happy ageing.

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6.Timely treatment & medical intervention: 

Many people believe that memory problems and feelings of sadness or pessimism are a normal part of ageing and therefore either postpone or avoid seeking care. Social stigma is another barrier to accessing mental health care and obtaining an early diagnosis. It has been estimated that stigma is the main factor behind the large gap between estimated prevalence and actual diagnosis rates, with less than 50 per cent of dementia patients receiving a formal diagnosis. Many dementia sufferers continue to be abandoned or hidden from public life. However, these should be treated by experts at early stages to control the progressive deterioration of mental health.

The need for mental health care in old age is thus growing in scope and urgency.

7. Active Listening and Empathy: 

Offering a sympathetic ear and understanding the feelings and experiences of the elderly without judgment can validate their feelings and help them process their emotions.

Currently, levels of investment in mental health tend to be relatively low. In high-income countries, annual spending on mental health for the general population is less than 2 dollars per patient. In low-income countries, it is less than 25 cents per patient. At the same time, awareness of mental health diseases is also low. There needs to be focused plans and awareness campaigns on mental health issues of the older population.

Listen to our expert Dr Jaya Mohan taking about "Emotional Well-Being For Healthy Ageing"


By integrating these strategies into the daily lives of seniors, caregivers and family members can help ensure that the emotional well-being of elderly individuals is nurtured, leading to a healthier, more fulfilling life in their later years. We at Happy60plus have online sessions wellness and wellbeing sessions for elders.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Emotional Wellbeing of Seniors

What are 4 Basic Emotional Needs of the Elderly?

  1. Security: Feeling safe in their environment and relationships.
  2. Belonging: Having a sense of community and family connection.
  3. Self-worth: Feeling respected and valued by others.
  4. Independence: Maintaining control over their own life choices and daily activities.

What are the Emotional Support in Aged Care? | How can we give emotional support to elders?

In aged care, emotional support involves creating a supportive environment that addresses the psychological and emotional needs of the elderly. This can include:

  • Providing regular social activities and community engagement.
  • Ensuring that staff are trained in compassionate communication.
  • Facilitating family involvement and visitation.
  • Offering counseling and mental health services as part of the care program.

What are the examples of Emotional Wellness?

  • Positive Outlook: Maintaining a hopeful and positive attitude about the future.
  • Resilience: The ability to bounce back from setbacks and adapt to change.
  • Connection: Building and sustaining meaningful relationships.
  • Self-awareness: Understanding and expressing one’s emotions healthily.

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