A report published today highlights significant gaps in the provision of mental health support in later life and includes calls for action to ensure talking therapies are included as a choice for older people.
Our Older People Lead Jeremy Bacon welcomed the Minds That Matter report by the charity Independent Age which investigated attitudes of, and towards, older people’s mental health.
Jeremy said: “This report is an extremely timely reminder of the importance of responding to psychological health in later life.
“Members of our Older People Expert Reference Group recently shared their concerns that during the Covid-19 pandemic, older people have been lumped together as a homogenous group and the focus on shielding and risk has overshadowed the psychological impact of the past six months.
Value of choice
“This reports sets out the value of choice of therapy for older people and we welcome the recommendations that more must be done to record and report on the age of people accessing talking therapy, and the vital role of GPs and health navigators in understanding and making older people aware of counselling in the NHS and third sector.”
Independent Age cite figures from NHS England that people aged 65 and over make up just 6% of NHS talking therapy clients in England, demonstrating a need for more options, choice and support for those experiencing mental health issues in later life.
In its report, Independent Age says numbers of older adults accessing therapy is too low given the age profile of the population – with 18% aged 65+ - and the prevalence of mental health conditions in the community.
Access to talking therapies is even more essential during the pandemic, with national statistics showing people in later life are facing increased anxiety, depression and experiencing complicated grief as a result of bereavement during this period.
The charity found between March and July this year, up to 98,000 older people experienced a partner bereavement – almost one and a half times as many as in a typical year.
Polling commissioned by Independent Age for the Minds That Matter report showed that nearly half (46%) of people in this age group were also not aware of talking therapies.
The report notes that despite the low rates of IAPT referral and low levels of awareness, people in later life often respond well to this support. Data from the programme for 2019-20 shows that people aged 65+ had an overall recovery rate of 64%, compared to 50% for people aged 18-64.
Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “Conditions like depression and anxiety can affect people at any age – and people of all ages can be treated and recover.
“Now, more than ever, it’s critical that we take the mental health of people aged 65+ seriously. Even prior to Covid-19, people in later life regularly had to cope without their mental health needs being met, with 10% of people aged over 65 saying they experience significant anxiety or low mood frequently or all the time.”
The Minds that matter report investigated attitudes of, and towards, older people’s mental health, using a nationally representative poll of 2,316 people, as well as in-depth interviews with 43 people across the country, and a UK wide survey with 2,821 respondents. The majority of its research was conducted just before the Covid-19 lockdown.
Exploring the role of counselling in improving the lives of older people, and promoting the value of talking therapies to this group, is a priority for BACP.
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