Older Adult Typical or Troubled?
Learn the Difference and Possibly Save a Life

As we age, illness and trauma can manifest itself in many ways – mentally and physically. Feeling depressed or anxious is not normal for adults 65 and older. Our society has the mistaken belief that with age and the onset of other medical difficulties– sadness and nervousness are normal responses. Even something as serious as delusions or hallucinations can be caused by something as simple as a urinary tract infection.

As we age everything we do has a greater impact on how we feel -- our nutrition, physical activity, ability to relax, how we think about situation, medications we take, and alcohol we may drink.

Being healthy and happy as we age is something that everyone deserves and can achieve. Discover new and healthy pathways to maintain and renew your body, mind and spirit.


Characteristics of Good Mental Health

Mental wellness involves your needs, ambition, abilities, ideals, feelings and conscience in order to meet the demands of every day life. It also includes:

  • happiness
  • peace of mind
  • enjoyment
  • satisfaction in life
  • Feeling good about yourself


  • Make sure:

  • You are not overwhelmed by your own emotions. You can take life’s disappointments in stride. You are tolerant, take pleasure in simple, everyday things and have an easy-going attitude toward yourself and others. You can respect and laugh at yourself, accept your shortcomings. You truly love yourself and forgive yourself.

  • Feel comfortable with other people. Give love and consider the interests of others. Have satisfying and lasting personal relationships. Like and trust others and believe that others will like and trust you. Embrace other people’s uniqueness. Do not take advantage of others, nor do you allow others to take advantage you. Feel that you belong.

  • Able to meet the demands of life.

  • You accept your responsibilities.

  • Shape your environment whenever possible and adjust to it whenever necessary. Plan ahead and do not fear the future. You welcome new experiences and ideas. You make use of their talents and set realistic goals. You are able to make your own decisions and are satisfied with putting your best effort into what you do.

  • Think about your mental health and know that you have the power to change it.

  • Realize that your mental health is not something that is given to you at birth; it has developed and changed with you. You know that one of the most important steps you can take in life is accepting responsibility for your life; for your successes, your failures, and your happiness.

  • Recognize when you need help.

  • Tell yourself that it takes courage and strength to ask for help.


  • Signs of Trouble

    Changes in any person’s usual behavior or routine regardless of age can indicate a change in health and mental well-being. Some changes come on slow and aren’t always recognized while other behavioral changes are quite sudden and obvious. Either way, these changes should not be ignored or just accepted because you are older. Symptoms of clinical depression can be triggered by other chronic illnesses common in later life, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

  • Any sudden onset confusion or change in behavior
  • Memory trouble after having a drink or taking a medication
  • Loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Being unsure of yourself
  • Irritability, sadness, depression
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Wanting to stay alone much of the time
  • Failing to bathe or keep clean
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty staying in touch with family or friends
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Anger, guilt, despair
  • Very intense longing and sorrow
  • Increase in use of drugs or alcohol

    Consideration should be given to your use of drugs and/or alcohol if you are experiencing memory loss, depression, repetitive falls and injuries, legal problems, chronic diarrhea, moods swings, weight loss and or isolation.

    A Little about Grief

    As we age the repetitiveness of loss of friends and loved ones may become overwhelming.

    It is extremely important to have strong positive beliefs about the meaning of dead, i.e., it being part of the life cycle, etc. It is easy to get lost in negative thoughts and loneliness.

    One-third of widows/widowers meet criteria for depression in the first month after the death of their spouse. No two people will experience a loss in exactly the same way. Your grief will be as individual as your fingerprint. No one can tell you how to grieve. There are no formulas for how much a loss will hurt or how long grief will last, so do not compare you to others in similar situations. Grief produces individual physical and emotional responses.

    Over time your symptoms and difficulties should begin to decrease, as you refocus attention on your daily activities. You should progressively feel better over time, i.e., 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and a year. An indication of trouble is prolonged grief accompanied by the symptoms listed above. It is important to find healthcare providers that specialize in or are at least knowledgeable about aging issues related to your health.

    You can feel better and recover. We ask that you learn more about support groups, counseling, medications, changing to positive thought patterns, and enhancing your coping skills. Healthy lifestyles are also important. They include exercise, stress management, a balanced diet, faith and hope. For information, screening, and resources please refer to www.guidetofeelingbetter.org or call your local Mental Health America.

    You can feel better

    Mental illness and substance abuse can be treated. People can and do recover. Individuals with mental illness are primarily treated with:
    • Medication
    • Therapy and counseling to resolve problems, change negative thought patterns and develop coping skills
    • A combination of these as prescribed by a mental health care professional.
    • Healthy lifestyle changes that include exercise, stress management, balanced diet, and developing a more positive attitude
    • Community services and support systems

    Substance abuse or addiction is primarily treated with:
    • Education
    • Outpatient or inpatient therapy
    • 12 step programs
    • Healthy lifestyle changes that include exercise, stress management, balanced diet, and developing a more positive attitude
    • Community services and support systems

    Definition of Recovery

    In July of 2003 the President’ s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health issued it’s final report: Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. The ultimate goal of a transformed system of care as identified by the Commission was summed in one word: RECOVERY. While the commission report focuses more on transforming the system of care, it is important to have some understanding of what is meant by “Recovery.”

    The commission defines Recovery as: “Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms. Science has shown that having hope plays an integral role in an individual’s recovery. ”

    Some key points to this working definition.
    • Recovery is a “process”, an on-going series of stages which people go through. Recovery is not a “cure” nor is it an end-product. Recovery can also be ever-changing, in that individuals may choose or be able to do certain things at certain times, but not at other times.
    • Each individual defines what “recovery” is for them, not others. This is a very fundamental point in that the individual is the driver in determining their recovery not clinicians, doctors or others deciding for them. Ultimately it should be an equal partnership between the individual and all those providing services in developing a plan of care with clearly defined goals. Again these goals should be driven by the individual and in partnership with the care providers.
    • Recovery can be much more than just lessening of symptoms, medication and therapy. Frequently it can involve all spheres of the person’s life. Critical areas that should be considered include: Supportive employment: Research shows individuals with a mental illness disability have the highest rate of not working. Also many programs emphasize serving other disabilities for assistance.

    Housing:
    This includes supportive housing programs, and being able to access affordable housing in the community.

    Peer support services:
    This includes a full range of consumer run programs and services from clubhouses, to drop in centers, to peer supporters. Recent research has demonstrated improved outcomes and better recovery when individuals can access these peer run support programs in addition to their traditional therapy. Access to and coordination with other health care. This area is often overlooked and needs to be included in a person’s plan of care.

    Recovery is a process that virtually everyone goes through each person defines it differently. While there is debate as to whether a person can “fully recover” or is “always in recovery” , it is a process that encompasses much more than just improving a person's presenting symptoms. Recovery is the process of the individual, in full partnership with care providers to address all areas of a person’s life, to be productive and participate fully in their community.


    For more information, you or your loved one might want to take a wellness check
    and learn from the other information on this site.
    For a comprehensive list of resources please refer to our Resource List

    Typical or Troubled?
    Learn the Difference and Possibly Save a Life!