Why it’s important to talk; whatever your age

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The generation that would rather “keep a stiff upper lip” than talk about their feelings are suffering. More than 6 in 10 people aged over 65 in the UK have experienced depression and anxiety, and more than half of these kept quiet as they felt “they should just get on with it”.

These latest figures from Age UK are alarming, as in recent years there’s been a huge focus on getting the nation to open up about their mental health, with the stigma once attached to it now changing. Especially with days such as Time To Talk Day happening each year; pushing for us all to talk, listen and help change lives.

4 years ago the Royals launched their Heads Together campaign to help tackle mental health issues across all ages, ITV recently started their Britain Get Talking initiative to promote mental wellness and to encourage conversation, and Huffpost’s new Head In The Game series encourages professional athletes, like Frank Bruno, to speak out over their mental health.

So with these campaigns reaching millions via multiple mediums why is the older generation still suffering?

Attitudes in the older generation

How often have you heard your parents or grandparents say “I don’t want to cause a fuss” when they need to get help over a physical illness? It therefore comes as no surprise that the willingness to seek help over a mental health concern is even less.

Only 1 in 10 of those surveyed by Age UK actually said they would put their mental health before physical health. Those over 65 years-old might be hearing and seeing information regarding mental health but if their attitude is that of ‘get on with it’ then the willingness to seek help just isn’t there.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK Director said of the older generation: "They grew up in an era when there was a real stigma associated with mental illness, so for many, these attitudes are deeply engrained and still driving their behaviour today.

"A further barrier to seeking support is a widespread lack of awareness about the effective treatments that are available, beyond 'taking pills', which many older people feel they do quite enough of already.”

>>Read more on What is wellbeing and how do we improve it?

Is loneliness a contributing factor?

“Hundreds of thousands of elderly are lonely and cut off from society,” according to the NHS. It can be a number of factors that cause it such as:

  • illness
  • death of a family member
  • leaving work
  • family moving away.

In fact Age UK say more than 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone and more than a million say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Whatever the cause may be “…it's shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable” and for mental wellbeing to suffer as a result; often leading to depression. A study from the Royal College of Psychiatrists supports this, as they highlight “depression is the most common mental health problem among older adults; affecting 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65+”.

What can be done to help?

Those who are lonely will often struggle to reach out and know what to do to help themselves. Which is why the NHS and Age UK are working together to raise awareness of the services available.


Various therapies are available on the NHS for a whole range of mental health issues. Working with a trained therapist, either face-to-face, over the phone, in a group or online, they can help a patient understand the cause and work with them towards a solution.

>>Read more on what types of therapy are available

Encouraging GPs

There’s a request being made for GPs to look out for the signs of poor mental health in the elderly and to signpost them to the NHS support currently available.

NHS Long Term Plan

The NHS Long Term Plan is drawn up by frontline staff, patients groups, and national experts to help move the NHS forward and focused on the areas that matter most. Within this is mental health.

As part of the plan, there’s a drive to make mental health care accessible to all by helping local areas; ensuring that therapies are meeting the needs of the older generation. As well as making sure those in care homes, older carers and people living with dementia are not forgotten.

There’s a huge amount of support available whatever a person’s situation might be, from phone lines set up to help tackle loneliness to getting involved in local clubs, but it’s about raising awareness on what is out there in order to help reduce and combat mental health issues – whatever your age.

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