Support in Mind Scotland has long been a champion of older people who are living with poor mental health, recognising that schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression do not melt away through the ageing process, but can and do continue to impact on people’s lives for all of their lives.

However, a review of our mental health services in Scotland would perhaps suggest otherwise, as for many older people, access to mental health services and community mental health support stops when they reach the age of 65 simply because of an arbitrary age limit on many adult mental health services. Not only does mental illness ignore these age limits, but it is often accompanied by failing physical health, and increasing isolation and loneliness.

Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, discusses this problem very movingly in the blog he posted on their website: “I need to be found: mental health in older age” that we are keen to highlight here:

Donald’s Blog: “I need to be found”: mental health and older age

One of the issues Donald highlights is the inequalities faced by some older people affected by conditions such as depression and anxiety, compared to the better recognition and support that has been growing over the past ten years or so for people experiencing delirium or dementia.

This is not in any way undermining the huge importance of these services, but bringing into focus that older people living with other mental health conditions feel abandoned and let down when their 65th birthday is accompanied by a reduction in the support that has kept them well in the community over many years.

As an organisation, SiMS has been leading on this with our partners in VHS and Faith in Older People, to bring interested parties together to highlight this serious issue and press for change.

We aim to present this as a fundamental rights issue for older people, and persuade our policy-makers and decision-makers topush the needs and rights of this vulnerable and excluded group much further up the political agenda.

A starting point, raised in Donald’s blog, is to address the complete absence of any commitments for older people in the current mental health strategy (2017-2027) as we work with the Government to lay out our priorities for the next 10 years.

Commitments we are seeking include reviewing availability of appropriate, specialised residential care; and ensuring that health and social care services are planned and delivered without arbitrary age limits that may allow providers to manage budgets, but don’t provide that seamless consistent mental health care and support that keeps people well.

We are absolutely delighted that Scottish Care is bringing its experience, knowledge and reach to this debate, which is not just about providing better care, but addressing fundamental inequalities that older people face in achieving quality of life.

  • With Thanks to Scottish Care for their permission to share this blog. Photo by Bruno Martins