LETTER: Seniors encouraged to look after mental health

THIS week is Seniors Week in Queensland, a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of older people in our community and an exciting opportunity for older people to try new activities.

The week is also an important reminder that every Australian, regardless of their age, needs to look after their mental health.

Good mental health helps keep people satisfied, optimistic and contributes to their sense of purpose and belonging.

Getting older can bring some unwelcome changes in people's lives, such as chronic illness, losses, pain, side-effects of medication, social isolation and loneliness, which may put older people at higher risk of depression or anxiety.

But as people grow older, they don't have to put up with depression and anxiety - and people shouldn't think it "goes with the territory".

While exact rates are unknown, research by the National Ageing Research Institute suggests between 10-15% of older people living in the community experience symptoms of depression.

Frail older people, those living with chronic conditions, and those needing a high level of home help are even more at risk of developing depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, some people still view depression and anxiety as a weakness of character.

Many seniors in particular don't know these conditions are common, and if they get the right support and treatment, most people recover, regardless of their age.

If you are feeling down and sad, can't be bothered participating in activities you once enjoyed or you're having unexplained aches and pains, these could all be signs of depression or anxiety.

beyondblue has information to help Queensland seniors achieve their best mental health and advice on how to take action if they think they may be struggling.

This information includes two booklets - Connections Matter, and What works to promote emotional wellbeing in older people - released earlier this year designed specifically for older people and those caring for older people.

I encourage all seniors to check out free booklets (www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/ for-me/older-people), and to look after their mental health.

- GEORGIE HARMAN, beyondblue CEO


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