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 - November 2018

Long-term conditions

Most people aged over 65 have two or more long-term conditions. These include diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular disease - conditions that can be treated and managed, but not cured. Research evidence consistently demonstrates that people with long-term conditions are two to three times more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

A new guide Living Well With Long Term Conditions from the charity Independent Age provides a wide range of advice on the management of long-term conditions, including the importance of recognising and acting upon the mental health impact of living with physical illness.

Read our news article - New guide to help older people live with long-term illnesses

Innovation in dementia care

At the 13th UK Dementia Congress held in Brighton in November, BACP member Danuta Lipinska was awarded of the Outstanding Innovation In Dementia Care award for her work in co-developing and delivering dementia awareness training to staff in the East of England Co-op Funeral Services.

Danuta will shortly be recording audio content for the BACP online CPD hub, sharing her experience and insights into work with older adults living with dementia and coping with bereavement.

Read our news article - BACP member wins award for dementia-friendly training

BACP members leading the way

Our Volunteers’ Day in Birmingham brought together four of our Older People Expert Reference Group (OPERG) who attended a workshop on the progress of the older people strategy to date. They identified key areas and challenges in making counselling more accessible to older adults.

Members at the Volunteers Day

Following the meeting, Erin Stevens published a blog on her website sharing key themes on work with older adults and emphasising the value of therapy irrespective of age.

Age discrimination in mental health 

A new report from The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Suffering in silence: age inequality in older people’s mental health care highlights inequalities in the treatment of mental health problems in older adults. It calls on UK governments to do more to recognise the specific needs of older people.

The report quotes research indicating that GPs are less likely to refer older people to talking therapies, despite evidence from IAPT in England that recovery rates for people aged 65 and over are better than average.

Read our news article - Calls for more support for older people’s mental health

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