By Annette Pinder

A recent Hometown Health Connection television show featured local experts addressing the mental health challenges of older adults, including the stigma that deters them from getting the help they need. Matthew G. Smith, Executive Director of Prevention Focus; Danielle Bateman, Clinical Specialist for the Niagara County Department of Mental Health; and John Jones, Senior Caseworker, Town of Amherst highlighted contributing factors, helpful solutions, why we should all work toward reducing stigma associated with mental health issues.

  • Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders. Older adults are susceptible to depression, anxiety, cognitive health disorders like dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, which can significantly impact their mental health.
  • Underdiagnosis and Misdiagnosis. Symptoms like anxiety and depression are often mistaken for normal aging or physical health problems, and cognitive decline can be misinterpreted as a natural part of aging, rather than dementia.
  • Stigma and Reluctance to Seek Help. Stigma is an ongoing issue associated with mental health issues among older adults, leading to their reluctance in seeking help. Many older adults grew up in a time when mental health issues were less understood and more stigmatized, deterring them from seeking help.
  • Social Isolation and Loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness are significant issues that affect the mental health of older adults. Retirement, loss of loved ones, and decreased mobility can lead to reduced social interactions, loneliness and depression.
  • Chronic Physical Health Conditions. Many older adults live with chronic physical health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, chronic pain, disability, and the stress of managing multiple health problems, which exascerbate depression and anxiety.
  • Cognitive Decline. Age-related mild cognitive impairment and dementia not only affect memory and cognitive function but can also lead to changes in mood, behavior, and personality.
  • Access to Mental Health Services. Access to mental health services can be a challenge for older adults due to limited mobility, lack of transportation, and financial constraints. A shortage of mental health professionals trained to address the unique needs of the elderly population can also be a problem.
  • Medication Management. Older adults often take multiple medications for various health conditions, often complicating the management of their mental health issues.
  • Caregiver Burden. Caregivers of older adults with mental health issues or cognitive decline face significant stress and burden, often impacting the mental health of the caregiver and the older adult. Sadly, older adults are subject to abuse by their caretakers.
  • Financial Stress. Many older adults face financial stress due to fixed incomes, rising healthcare costs, long-term care needs, further contributing to anxiety and depression.

The panelists agreed that addressing the mental health needs of older adults requires community support programs and senior centers that offer opportunities for socialization, exercise, technology, and more. It also requires understanding the role of stigma in contributing to these problems. Take the pledge to reduce stigma, and check out helpful resources at See page 45 for where to watch the show on Saturday, June 22 and 29 at noon, or see it online at