How people with mental illness can benefit from the elderly?

by Linda Baron-Katz

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Posted by baronkatz
I have always wondered what makes the elderly or older adult population an important aspect where recovery from mental illness is concerned. I work as a peer advocate at Pride of Judea/JBFCS with the senior adult members who suffer from mental illnesses. The age range runs from people in their mid 50’s to those who are in their 80’s. Their recovery is much different from young adults. For them, recovery has been based on life experiences. One can learn so much because they have been through all the hardships from their relationships with others, their work history, medical and mental health problems, etc.

At Pride of Judea, I do different activities with them to help them support their wellness and recovery. Some things we do are hearing about current events in the nation and the world, exercise, writing on topics that promote wellness, art, interpersonal skills, coping with loss, etc.

One thing I have noticed about working with the elderly is their strength when it comes to other parts of their body getting more ail and having to cope with loss from death of their friends, family, loved ones, etc. Each loss has a tremendous impact on their mental health and each one of them feels it in a different way. Bereavement is essential to living life and learning to cope with it as well. For the elderly, losing someone close to them can be detrimental because it makes them realize that their time will also come soon. For instance, one member was so upset because her doctors told her she had a cyst in her breast and was so worried about the outcome that she almost broke in tears.

Another thing that I have noticed about the elderly is how they cope from being independent, doing things on their own towards being dependent on others. This can be hard for them. Most adults want to be independent, but as they get older, they lose some of that and hate it when they have to rely on others for help. Being dependent again on people is a learned behavior that they have to adjust to and can be vital for their recovery.

As a result, I hope that when I reach their age, I will be able to adjust and learn to the kinds of things senior adults are facing today.

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