World Mental Health Day: How older people can maintain and improve their cognitive health?

World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 to increase awareness in people about mental health issues. Dr Manpreet Sodhi, Consultant Psychologist at Fortis Hospital, Noida, explains how older people can take care of their cognitive health.

World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10. This day was first recognised in the year 1992. The aim of this day is to increase awareness among people against mental health problems. So, on this day, consultant Psychologist Dr Manpreet Sodhi from Fortis Hospital, Noida talks about how older people can maintain and improve their cognitive health.

While the declining cognitive health among the geriatric population is not uncommon, and their increase in dependency on the caregivers is in direct relation. The care of the elderly by themselves, for their health in the primary care setting or by society is largely seen as a neglected area with very little data on the type of problems faced by the elderly. The caregivers, even the health professionals have no formal training in the field of geriatrics and the informal caregivers, family members are not aware and coordinated adequately to provide the right care to their own elder’s. 

This poses significant new challenges for medical professionals and social scientists. They have now started recognizing the aged as a separate social category needing special attention.

World Mental Health Day 2020: Older people can follow these tips to take care of their mental health, according to Dr Manpreet Sodhi.

India is expected to see a rise in the number of its elderly population in the upcoming years, which is expected to grow rapidly in the developing countries. As per the reports of WHO 2019, more than 12 crore people in India are above the age of 60 years and around 6% of this population is a victim of some kind of elder abuse and many such incidences still go unreported.

The old-age dependency ratio climbed from 10.9% in 2010 to 14.2% in 2019 for India as a whole. For females and males, the value of the ratio was 14.9% and 13.6% in 2019.

Moreover, the geriatric population is prone to loneliness and depression. And these symptoms can put a drastic effect on their life in every aspect. Failing to recognize the symptoms of their declining mental health and a mindset to not take any help as this may be a part of their ageing makes it complicated for the oldies. Such activities and social get-togethers at regular intervals help them to keep away from such thoughts.

Mental Health Issues in Older People

It is mandatory to be aware that even medical problems lead to depression directly or indirectly as a psychological reaction to the illness. And when these conditions are painful, disabling or life-threatening, it can worsen the situation. These include diseases like – Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes, Cancer, strokes, heart diseases, thyroid disorders, Vitamin B12 deficiency, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease etc. 

Dementia in Older People

Dementia is caused by the degeneration of brain cells and can be present initially with depressive symptoms or can coexist. This disease similar to depression, which has overlapping symptoms like memory problems, lethargic movement and speech, a low motivation which make it difficult to separate. But whatever the case may be, seeking immediate medical attention is a must. If you were depressed, then memory, concentration and energy will be restored with the course of treatment.

How to Maintain and Improve Your Mental Health?

Though forgetfulness is quite common for people at all stages of life, depleting memory with age, maybe the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Reasons attributing to memory loss with ageing not necessarily indicate one getting older, but poor brain activities that gradually lead to memory loss. It is thus advised to stay active and participate in activities that keep the mind and body sharp.

1.Keep yourself engaged – Loneliness is a major cause for the declining mental health among the elderly, and hence it is important to be connected and keep yourself engaged – Physically, mentally and socially. Making an effort to connect with others and limiting the lonely time makes you feel better. If you find it hard to go out and socialize, try inviting your loved ones to your place. Speaking over the phone and contacting through emails and chats were helpful to some extent. But face to face interaction still has an upper hand in refreshing your mood better than in digital communication. But nowadays, video calling is also of some help. You can be socially interactive by following the under mentioned ideas as it is never too late to build new friendships:

Take care of a pet: Pets are your best pals, they never keep you lonely. Also taking your pet for a walk is a good exercise and a way to interact with new people.

Learn a new skill: Never let your imagination die, pick something that always occupied your mind and you always wanted to try.

Create opportunities to laugh: Humor and laughter always boost your mood, exchange jokes and funny stories with your loved ones.

Health and hygiene: when depressed, it is difficult to feel motivated to do anything. Practice some health habits by yourself. The better you take care of your body, the better it takes care of you:

Body movement: Physical activity is the best mental exercise. Take up light household work, move till the store etc. and make your body feel enjoyed.

Balanced diet: Consuming a lot of sugary and starch can later crash your glucose level. Eating habits do boost your mood.

Yoga and meditation: The best way to keep your mind working and concentrating is to meditate.

Sound Sleep: sleeping for quality 8-10-night hours keeps depression away, as usually, aged persons suffer insomnia


Apart from lifestyle changes or suggested Antidepressant, medication under medical supervision by a psychiatrist is most often needed to prevent worsening or decreasing the suffering and importantly to prevent suicides.

Correspondingly, physical illness, health issues and the challenges of ageing need not necessarily put your energy in the basement, enjoyment depends on your mental state, feeling better and enjoying the golden years. 

Also Read: World Mental Health Day: Impacts of social media on our cognitive health explained by Psychiatrist Sonal Anand

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