Can Technology Improve the Mental Health of Older Adults?
Getting older can pose unique mental health challenges—but with the right tools, it can feel less overwhelming. Learn how tech can help our aging loved ones.
February 20, 2022
As we age, many circumstances can contribute to declining mental health. Medical conditions, medications, psychological experiences like grief, and social stressors, including isolation, often play a role. Cognitive decline, frailty, and fall risk are among the unique risk factors for mental health issues that can emerge later in life.
Many older adults cope well with these stressors; others, however, may develop mental health challenges.
According to the World Health Organization:
- Between 2015 and 2050, the number of older adults will double as the baby boomer generation ages
- Mental health issues and neurological problems account for 6-7% of total disabilities in older adults
- 15% of adults over the age of 60 have a mental health issue
These statistics show that mental health conditions are common among older people, and as the world’s population ages, these conditions will become more common.
Technology can help lessen many risk factors associated with aging, particularly with mental health. It’s important to make sure older adults have access to technology that may help them stay more connected and engaged.
Though technology can be helpful, there is often a learning curve associated with it. So how can we support loved ones and help older adults learn to access and use new tools to manage their mental health and well-being?
Factors of Aging That Impact Mental Health
While mental health is important in every stage of life, it’s especially important in aging populations. When talking about mental health in older adults, we need to remember that it doesn’t just include diagnosed conditions—it encompasses psychological, social, and emotional well-being.
Below, we’ve highlighted several common life changes associated with aging that can negatively impact mental health.
Decline in Functional Ability
Older adults may experience changes in their functional ability, such as vision loss and reduced mobility. For example, many older people have decreased night vision. As a result, they may lose their driver’s license—but just as importantly, they may lose their sense of independence.
Functional issues, such as arthritis and chronic pain, can lead to reduced mobility. Individuals can find it challenging to cope with these new limitations, and this may trigger or contribute to depression.
Increases in Negative Life Events
Older adults experience more negative life events as they age. For example, many people develop strong relationships with people their own age, but as they grow older, they lose more peers.
Bereavement is hard at any age—and as people grow older, they tend to experience more loss. For many, it can feel like the grief is unrelenting.
It’s important that older adults have resources to help them better manage significant losses of family members and friends—or even loss of their own health and independence. With these resources, grief and coping can be healthy, instead of all-consuming.