Lecture – Hope, Wellness, and Empowerment in Aging With Serious Mental Illnesses

Available with English captions.

Presented by Lydia Ogden, MSW, PhD, Simmons School of Social Work – The Priscilla Aikenhead Lecture

Older adults with serious mental illness experience more poverty and isolation. They also report less subjective well-being and increased rates of physical health problems. Research also shows this group has a higher rate of early mortality.

In this presentation, Ogden discusses the challenges and concerns of older adults with serious mental illnesses through the lens of collected life histories. She draws on her research to present practical approaches that social workers and health care professionals can use to address the challenges facing this population.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • The values guiding social work research
  • Personal narratives from older adults with severe mental illness that show how life circumstances affect mental and physical health and treatment outcomes
  • Advice for social workers and health professionals on improving care for older adults with severe mental illness

In her research, Ogden interviews individuals with severe mental illness and records their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and concerns. She uses these life course narratives to better understand the needs and hopes of older adults with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.

During the talk, Ogden shares several stories collected through her research. These narratives show how homelessness, employment status, relationships, and other life circumstances impact older adults with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. They also reveal the hopes and goals of members of this population and point the way to better treatment.

Based on her work, Ogden calls on social workers to rethink the way they set treatment goals with patients. For example, most social workers emphasize managing symptoms, maintaining stable housing, decreasing social isolation, and improving social skills. But based on her findings, Ogden urges social workers to set “more inspiring goals.”

For example, instead of helping patients maintain stable housing, social workers can encourage them to “find a place to call home and enjoy the experience of being home.” Also, instead of setting goals of decreasing social isolation and improving social skills, patients can be called on to develop positive relationships and engage in activities with people they like.

Looking ahead, Ogden says she is continuing her research into patient stories. She hopes to develop interventions that include the voices of consumers. Also, she wants to create a treatment manual designed to improve aging with serious mental illness through enhancing hope, wellness, and empowerment.