Assessing the mental health needs of older people

A framework for well-being


Mental health problems in later life are relatively common. The Department of Health estimates that perhaps 40 per cent of older people seeing their GP, 50 per cent of older people in general hospitals, and 60 per cent of care home residents have a mental health problem (2).

Older people with mental health problems are more likely to end up in institutional care, they recover less well from physical problems and illness, and they are more vulnerable to abuse. 'The presence of a mental health problem is a strong and independent predictor of poor outcomes such as increased mortality, length of stay, institutionalisation and resource use' (National Institute for Mental Health in England 2005) (3).

Ideas from practice

Idea from practice - a holistic approach to mental health

The Sharing and Caring project is managed by Age Concern, Wyre Forest. The programme was established to support healthy lifestyles of older people and to reduce feelings of isolation and depression. Evidence suggested locally that older people were not accessing local services unless they were targeted specifically and health promotion locally was rarely targeted at older people. The programme aims to raise self-esteem and well being, to increase social contact and support and to enable people to explore self help techniques. Evaluation to date has shown increased self- esteem, social contact, reduced isolation and increased participation. It is hoped that longer term evaluation will also show improvements in health.

For further information contact: Pat Simmonds at Age Concern Wyre Forest - 01562-827788 - email -

Idea from practice - awareness raising

Information and awareness raising displays on mental health in later life were located in three key public venues in Southwark. The displays focused on the prevalence of mental ill health in later life, challenging myths and stereotypes and provided acceptable and accessible information on mental health for older people and their relatives and carers. Workers also carried out a brief survey of current views, needs and concerns. Displays were concentrated in more deprived areas after a needs assessment. Individuals generally reacted positively to the information about mental health. Uptake of information was high and contents well received.

For further information contact: Steve Boddington at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust - 0207 919 2832 - email -

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