The traveling and clinic visitation barriers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic brought a huge relief to senior citizens globally.
Therapy or counseling has become much more convenient and accessible now – thanks to the virtualization of mental healthcare treatments across a wide range of serious mental illnesses.
Roughly 1.4 to 4.8 percent of American adults aged 65 years or above are affected by severe mental illnesses. These demographics in the US are changing rapidly. And the country is expected to have double the current senior citizen population in 2060.
The increasing lifespans of people demand additional care and support. So, you as seniors, must have the necessary resources needed to maintain sound mental health.
In this article, I will discuss how to empower elders by capitalizing on virtual mental therapy.
What Can Trigger Mental Health Issues in Seniors?
This section discusses the various risk factors associated with mental health illnesses in older adults.
Physical disabilities as you become older are obvious. However, aging also comes with a lot of other psychological challenges. These can contribute to many mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
Intrusive thoughts such as below are hard to avoid for older people:
- you are not as active as before
- you are not as charming as before
- you are not as capable and financially stable as before etc.
These may haunt you at all times. There is also this constant fear of being abandoned by your children as you are no longer productive.
I am listing down the most common risk factors responsible for causing serious mental health illnesses in senior citizens:
- The anxiety of being financially unproductive or unstable post-retirement
- Mistreatment by the younger generations of the family, causing extreme loneliness and negligence
- Diseases due to aging such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia trigger severe memory loss
- Negative emotional and physiological reactions due to certain prescribed medications
- A complete breakdown of physical abilities
- Alcoholism or substance abuse
- Other physical ailments causing chronic discomfort and pain – joint pain, diabetes, arthritis, back pain, reduced mobility, etc
- Poor diet
- Shock due to the death of a close friend or family member
- The constant fear of being alone all the time (social isolation)
- The anxiety of being treated as a burden due to a reduced socioeconomic status
- Depression caused by memory loss in your spouse
Online Therapy: A Boon or A Bane for Senior Citizens?
Offline or traditional treatments might be challenging for older adults due to multiple factors such as:
- Inaccessibility from rural locations
- Transportation and mobility issues
- Inflexible appointments as you would be required to adhere to strict schedules
- No home delivery of prescribed medications
Technological advancement in the field of mental healthcare has done wonders for people in all age groups. However, the success is particularly more pronounced in the case of senior citizens.
It would be a boon if we could come up with digital mental healthcare services that are easier to understand and use. So when catering to seniors, the usability and convenience of these services would take priority over accessibility.
There are many challenges too, especially when it comes to introducing online counseling apps and websites to older adults. I will be covering these later in the article.
Benefits of Online Therapy for Seniors
This section discusses the key advantages of virtual mental counseling and psychiatry platforms.
Online mental therapy platforms such as Meru Health are more cost-effective. Given most senior citizens have fewer to no income sources, this comes as a massive relief.
The services offered by these platforms are structured in such a way that senior patients are treated with more care and love in a systematic way.
The system keeps a track record of everything including:
- Patient history
- Past appointments (missed, attended or rescheduled)
- A record of all medical documents of diagnosis
- Progress so far
- Important milestones achieved and more
This eliminates the need to remember and preserve all the unnecessary paperwork.
The regular notifications and reminders via cell phones empower seniors to be prepared for the session beforehand. This way they are ready to face the therapist more confidently. And when raw emotions are uncovered, the diagnosis improves drastically.
With multiple modes of communication at their disposal, the conversations are seamless. This lets them be honest and vocal about how they feel from the comfort of their homes. It is particularly great for those who are introverted and do not prefer video calls.
Goal setting and achieving smaller yet significant milestones are relatively easier on online platforms.
Moreover, wearable devices linked to the healthcare app can track various functions of the body. This is crucial for aging bodies as medical practitioners would be careful about putting too much pressure on their old patients.
The stats on these devices can provide meaningful insights into the impact of ongoing therapy sessions. Online therapy helps senior patients be more proactive. And encourages them to consistently achieve important goals throughout the journey for better treatment outcomes.
This element of self-motivation in virtual mental healthcare can build enough emotional resilience and can go a long way in proper recovery.
In summary, these are some of the key benefits
Online therapy counters restricted transportation and mobility problems of senior citizens
- It eliminates geographical barriers when it comes to taking expert medical advice, counseling, or psychiatric care
- Most services are affordably priced with insurance coverage. This is great for senior citizens who rely on their retirement savings
- There are multiple pricing plans to choose from, to suit your schedule and lifestyle.
- There is support for multiple modes of communication that foster a sense of ease and comfort.
- The platform has fun activities to keep emotionally weak seniors from missing appointments or giving up entirely.
- The platforms are HIPAA-compliant mandating providers to maintain the privacy of patients.
- Older adults can take the treatment according to their pace. So online therapy gives them more control over their emotional well-being.
- There are many specialized questionnaires, resources, and tools. This contributes to better accessibility, usability, and inclusivity. And the senior patients do not feel alienated in the process.
- Seniors can also talk to support groups online without having to leave their homes. This also enhances treatment outcomes.
- The added anonymity during consultations can alleviate the shame or stigma associated with mental health issues.
The above benefits do come along with a set of a few cons. Let us discuss those in the next section.
Challenges Faced By Senior Citizens While Accessing Online Mental Therapy
Are all older adults comfortable operating technology? No, not all of them know how to use phones to access online mental healthcare. We will take a look at the major obstacles in this part of the article.
- Trouble using computers, phones, laptops, and tablets to navigate the apps
- Compromised vision makes reading online an uphill task
- Virtual therapy might lack the intimacy and personal connection that older adults crave so much
- Major reluctance of most senior citizens to make online payments fearing failed transactions
- The inability of most senior citizens to report bugs or other technical issues to the support staff
This is when awareness and empathy come to the rescue. Clinicians must create a trustworthy environment first instead of straightaway approaching the treatment. This way senior citizens are able to communicate more freely fostering rapport and building a genuine bond.
You as senior citizens, must also simultaneously push your boundaries each time you learn a new technology. This will help improve your tech literacy and your ability to use online mental healthcare platforms.
To simplify app usage, most platforms nowadays are equipped with:
- User-friendly interfaces
- Clear fonts
- Assistive technology
- Detailed guides and videos
- Customer support
Also, the impact of the advancement of AI applications in almost every field is massive. It can further ease the difficulties in using online mental healthcare platforms. With AI, accessing virtual mental therapy can be a liberating experience for seniors.
The convenience, ease, and enhanced usability offered by online therapy provide a golden chance for elders. It helps them effectively take charge of their mental well-being.
The unwavering support of your younger family members can also be a solid anchor. It will help you understand the technicalities so you can easily continue with your treatment.
You can also connect with a community of senior citizens so you can learn from each other’s experiences. Treating internet connectivity like an asset is key. Embracing digital mental therapy is the way to go for a happier, more satisfying second innings of your life.
Hope this article was helpful. However, if you want guidance for more, connect with me.
All the Best!