The mental health of older people is often overlooked, with much depression and anxiety in older adults across the UK unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated. Research shows that the likelihood of being prescribed medication and not referred to therapy increases with age.

We believe that age should not be a barrier to receiving treatment and support whenever it is needed and that’s why we have developed our older people strategy.

Working with BACP members, a range of partner organisations and across the full range of BACP functions, we are exploring ways to:

  1. increase the numbers of older people who access therapy
  2. increase the availability and provision of counselling to older people

We’re taking a broad view of the definition of ‘older people’ and are focusing on the life events and transitions that happen more frequently (though not exclusively) to people aged 50+. This covers a large number of issues, age-ranges and experiences, including long-term conditions, end of life and bereavement.

Updates - August 2018

Loneliness Strategy consultation

In July we responded to a call for evidence on approaches to a Loneliness Strategy for England. We expressed alarm that despite AGE UK estimates of 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK, age was not identified in the consultation document as a specific risk factor for loneliness. Our submission highlighted the links between loneliness and common mental health problems, the need to address psychological barriers to engagement and the role that counselling can play in supporting people to overcome loneliness.

We're pleased to have been able to include in our response examples of innovative practice from BACP members working with older adults. You can find full details of the consultation on the government website.

Ageism Plus

In a recent blog for Independent Age's Ageism Plus campaign, our older people lead Jeremy Bacon says ageing doesn’t have to mean sadness, loneliness and decline and there is no upper age limit to benefiting from counselling. In Mental health – a casualty of ageism, he says "Ageism is the foundation of barriers that keep the common mental health problems of older people hidden and untreated".

As well as mental health, the Ageism Plus campaign looks at ageism from many perspectives, such as ageism and work, ageism and sexism, and ageism and disability. The campaign aims to "showcase diversity, call out prejudice and find ways of eliminating discrimination for good".

Promoting working with older people to BACP members

We're still inviting members to join our older people expert reference group to support our work to increase access and provision of therapy to older people. If you're interested, please register through the BACP volunteers scheme.


If you would like to share your experience on working with older people or to receive a bi-monthly update on the work within the BACP older people strategy, please email