Report: More Virginia Seniors Face Mental-Health Problems
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Across Virginia, people have adjusted to the new normal of pandemic life, but concerns remain about the effects of the past two years had on the state's older residents, and what might happen if COVID-19 cases spike again.
A new report from the United Health Foundation (UHF) found mental health among those 65 and older worsened from 2011 to 2020.
Amy Strite, executive director of senior connections for the Capital Area Agency on Aging, said she believes mental health among seniors has further deteriorated in the past two years.
"I think so much of it boils down to social isolation, loneliness and lack of connections," Strite outlined. "And the toll that takes."
Per the UHF report, more than 14% of seniors reported having depression in 2020, up a little more than a percentage point from 2011. Strite pointed out her organization offers programs to combat senior loneliness, including health and wellness classes and volunteer opportunities.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said the deterioration in senior mental health also ties in with an increase in drug overdoses for people 65 and older. The overall drug death rate among older Virginians climbed by nearly 130% from 2008 to 2020, according to the report.
"A lot of people may think that seniors are not part of the problems that we're seeing with mental health and drug overdoses, and suicides," Randall observed. "But in fact, with the drug deaths, the seniors were one of the groups that had the highest rate of increase."
The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services can connect residents across the state with services and community organizations in their area. CommunityResourceFinder.org can also help people connect with services, including everything from medical services to housing opportunities.
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