With 1.31 billion people, India has the second largest population. This population also has a higher growth rate of individuals aged 60 and above. Keeping that in mind, the population of millennials is also on the rise. Supporting mental health of elderly has also been found therapeutic for many. Since, mental health problems are now more prevalent amongst the two populations, supporting each other can be a step forward. Participating in social bonding or cognitive activities for mental health care of the elderly can develop positive thoughts, gratitude and also improve self-esteem amongst the millennials
Mental health disorders such as depression, dementia, Parkinson’s are common in the elderly population. Physical disabilities such as arthritis or cardiovascular diseases are also common. The elderly population of India is commonly exposed to social and emotional alienation, bereavement and isolation. Retirement can moreover reduce social participation and cause economic vulnerability. These changes, along with urbanization and disintegration of joint families, can further affect support and care of their physical and mental health.
Some of the important steps that millennials can make for elderly mental health care are:
1. Assessing risk factors of any mental health related concern. Some common behavioural traits for depression, dementia and others are loss in appetite, disturbed sleep pattern, feeling emotionally flat or short term forgetfulness.
2. Millennials can help inculcate healthy eating habits. Intake of proteins, irons and vitamins should be maintained even during old age. Consulting a dietitian to meat specific dietary requirements due to a disease should also be considered.
3. Routine medical check up, following medical treatment properly is another way through which the millennials can show support and care. Moreover, educating the elderly about their health issues and evidence based intervention can greatly help them find the right treatment for themselves.
4. Engagements in social, psychological and cognitive activities such as reminiscence therapy, practising mindfulness, crafts, playing puzzles and games, or even volunteering has found to be therapeutic.
5. Along with mental health care, taking good care of physical health is also necessary. Maintaining a routine of walking, daily exercise, yoga and meditation are some ways of maintaining physical activity during old age.
6. Retirement, loss of dear ones and bereavement can sometimes lead to alcohol or other drug abuse in old age. Checking up on such habits and regulating them is a step towards better mental and physical healthcare.
7. A popular approach of animal petting is also found to have its own benefits amongst the elderly. Animal pets such as a dog or cat keep them busy and active.
8. Financial support from millennials through health insurances, policies, fundraising of NGOs and other charities and more can go a long way. Even a small contribution can make a big difference.
9. In this world of information overload, it can sometimes get difficult to get the right information. This is something even the elderly goes through. As millenials are more vigilant about the correct source of media, they can lead awareness in the right direction and therefore help the elderly if they get misled or confused.
10. Mental health issues are still stigmatized widely amongst the elderly. The millennials have led a successful journey in reducing this stigma. Directing a new destigmatisation approach towards elderly can reap some more benefit and support for them.
The elderly population can be vulnerable and providing them support can improve their quality of life and wellbeing. The youth can greatly support mental health of the elderly by following the above mentioned steps.