Richa Madaan

Richa Madaan

The Role of Support Groups in Senior Mental Health

  Jan 16, 2024
Reviewed by Ayushi Jain

We look to protect and maintain our way of life and ensure maximum comfort with personal capabilities when we start aging, and obviously, mental health has a great impact on its maintenance. Mental health issues in senior citizens typically face unique challenges that if not handled with care can lead to serious outcomes. 

There are so many phases in which senior citizens look for support, such as feelings of isolation, loss of a loved one, physical health issues, and much more. Support groups play a vital role in this by promoting senior mental health. 

Because they are professionally trained, their experiences help them to establish a safe and understanding zone for them so that they can share their life, access valuable resources, and connect with others. In this blog, we will take you on a tour to understand the significance of these support groups in maintaining senior mental health and its advantages. 

Understanding Senior Mental Health 

It is necessary to grasp the constituents of this to properly understand the indispensable roles support plays in senior mental health. 

Firstly, it is considered that aging bestows wisdom and a sense of fulfillment. On the other hand, it also brings down unique challenges, making them feel like they are struggling alone with their state of affairs.  Having said that, society doesn’t support mental health as a key area of difficulty, especially when it’s associated with ageism

Moreover, it is observed that the mental health of seniors is often challenged by anxiety, and cognitive decline like dementia, anxiety, etc. Besides this, seniors also cope with grief due to the loss of family and friends, along with consistent changes in their independence and physical health. In the absence of enough support, these challenges are enough to overwhelm even the strongest individuals. 

The Stigma Surrounding Senior Mental Health 

🤔 Do You Know? 14% of adults aged 60 or over live with mental disorders, according to the World Health Organization

Now, an obvious question strikes in mind if senior mental health is so significant to their well-being, why is there very little focus on it? Well, it is due to the persisting stigma in the society about the mental health. 

Also, the prevalent misconception that the symptoms of the illness are merely a “normal” part of aging. Therefore, the prevalence of this acceptableness of senior mental health deprives them of seeking help or discussing their emotions with their loved ones. 

Due to this, these support groups function as an integral unit for senior citizens because they provide them with a supportive environment, breaking all the social barriers where seniors can hassle-freely discuss their mental health concerns. 

The Role of Support Groups 

The organized groups are experienced and trained to cover the range of mental health concerns that seniors face, thus, offering support to them. Seniors are assisted to make them feel free to express themselves hastily. This helps them find happiness, overtaking the whole stigma revolving around the issue. 

These statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health depict that with the increase in age, the probability of committing suicide also increases. 

Emotional Support 

The primary role of these support groups is to offer emotional aid to individuals who need a helping hand to face their mental health concerns. Considering senior mental health, these issues become more manageable when they are shared with peers who actually understand the unique experiences and emotional turmoil that seniors go through. And, this emotional connection is very precious for stable mental and emotional health well-being

Sense of Belonging 

Providing a sense of belonging is the most significant psychological advantage these support groups provide. The feeling of being isolated and lack of connections with others are the major issues that arise with aging. 

Therefore, support groups play an excellent role in bridging the connection gap and creating communities. These groups act as a social lifeline in rejuvenating their sense of belongingness and to cope with their loneliness for many individuals. 

Sharing and Learning 

As said, these support groups turn out as a platform for individuals who have faced similar difficulties, permitting them to share their stories. With the help of these stories, seniors gain valuable insights from others to learn and overcome their challenges. 

Over time, these patterns of sharing and learning dynamics can help develop coping strategies allowing them to work personally, enhance their resilience, and improve their mental health condition. However, these strategies can be for various mental health issues like anxiety, grief, depression, etc. thus, developing it as a multi-faceted educational platform. 

Reducing Stigma 

Most support groups consider that the stigma surrounding mental health for seniors is a major concern. That’s why when these groups offer open conversation helps people to normalize the conversation around mental illness. This empowers individuals to speak up and seek help for their mental illnesses. Thus, by breaking these harmful stereotypes around aging and mental well-being, seniors can receive the care, support, and resources they deserve. 

Coping Mechanisms

Implementing coping mechanisms and adapting them for personal use is the constant lesson imparted by these support groups. However, these mechanisms do come in various forms that allow participants to choose the best available option for them. 

It can be stress management tricks, relaxation techniques, and many more. These tools help deal with challenges such as chronic pain, the emotional toll of loss, or caregiving responsibilities. 

Resource Sharing 

Apart from the emotional support, these professional groups also provide valuable resources to the seniors. Due to these, seniors get a chance to address their healthcare needs, and exchange information with community resources, healthcare service providers, or local services to fulfill their necessities. 

With this, it is understood that in the absence of a network, they won’t be able to utilize the opportunity or resources to get to know about services like counseling, wellness programs, or senior centers. In fact, when all these resources come together can have a pivotal role in the management of senior mental health. 

Types of Support Groups 

As there is no one defined structure of these support groups. In fact, the services often come in numerous types to fulfill different requirements and preferences. Some common types are discussed below:-

  • Grief Support Groups:-  These groups are devoted to seniors who want to tackle the emotional challenges in their lives. They become a safe space for them to express their grief. 
  • Caregiver Support Groups:- Sometimes seniors are found to provide care for a family member or spouse facing chronic illness. And, it is obvious, this can lead to burnout. These professionals provide them with advice and suggest advice to relieve them through solace. 
  • General Mental Health Support Groups:- The general here is an umbrella term under which numerous mental health issues are discussed. Whether it is depression anxiety or the need to cope with loneliness, these professionals provide support to seniors for their particular issues. 
  • Disease-specific Support Groups:- There are groups for seniors who are dealing with specific types of health issues like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. This helps members to connect amongst themselves by sharing their experiences and caregiving suggestions. 
  • Peer-Led Support Groups:- These types of groups are often run by the seniors themselves focussing on a particular theme or topic like art therapy, mediation, or reminiscence. 

This option is usually offered to those people looking for greater flexibility in their mental health treatment. Along with this, as these groups are led by peers, they can be organized anywhere like, community centers, public spaces, homes, and even aged care centers, like this

Supporting Seniors’ Futures

By now, the pivotal role support groups play in optimizing the mental health of seniors. In fact, with the range of support styles and strategies, these groups can become a lifeline for many seniors, allowing them to dream of a better future. 

These support groups for seniors provide a ray of hope for a change in a society where the mental health needs of seniors are often neglected. Their mission to foster resilience and promote better emotional well-being in the golden age is really appreciable, which recognizes the well-being of our aging population.