Coronavirus pandemic has made older people more anxious and less motivated says charity

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic a third of older people have become more anxious or less motivated, a charity survey suggests.

Of 1,364 UK adults over 60, 34 per cent said they are feeling more anxious and 36 per cent are feeling less motivated to do the things they enjoy, Age UK said.

Age UK is working with NHS England to encourage older people to get help as part of the Help Us Help You campaign, amid concerns they may feel ashamed to do so.

The charity said it has been hearing from older people who are struggling to get out of bed and dressed, and feel like every day is the same.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of older men and 40 per cent of older women said they felt more anxious.

This rises to 45 per cent of older people with health conditions or people advised to shield feeling heightened anxiety, and 37% of people from lower social grades. And almost half of those with health conditions (47 per cent) said they were lacking their usual motivation, and 41% of people from less advantaged social grades.

One woman, aged between 55 and 59, told the charity: “I just feel so scared to go out, my depression has a knock on effect on my pain, not being able to go outside means my mind keeps going round in circles making me more depressed – no conversations, no laughter, in debt and overweight from takeaways, I feel unloved, unwanted.”

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Charity director Caroline Abrahams said depression should not be seen as a normal part of ageing, adding: “We need to challenge the assumption that older people should just put up with it.”

She said: “The pandemic brought sudden changes to all of our lives and that has naturally affected our feelings and mood, leaving many of us feeling low, panicky, frightened or having problems sleeping – and it doesn’t look like the virus is going away any time soon with numbers of infections increasing, and restrictions tightening again.

“For some older people the next six months, coupled with the challenges that winter brings, will be a terrifying prospect. Older people with depression and anxiety may not recognise the symptoms or they may not know what support is available.

“It is important that all older people know they do not have to cope alone and that the NHS is still there to support them with their mental health.”

Steps to protect wellbeing include staying in touch with family and friends, doing something you enjoy once a day, keeping active and talking about how you are feeling.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, said: “The extraordinary events of this year have been challenging for older people and no-one should feel ashamed, reluctant or worried about asking for help.”

NHS talking therapy services and other forms of support are still there for people who need them, Mr Burns added, available online or over the phone when face-to-face sessions are not possible.

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