One of these unique challenges for seniors is maintaining positive mental and emotional health. Recent figures suggest that nearly 5.6 million to 8 million seniors have some form of mental illness or substance abuse problem (ref 2). Seniors with mental disorders have increased disabilities and morbidity relative to their counterparts with physical illnesses alone (ref 3) . Compounding the issue, these disorders often go undiagnosed due to many seniors’ reluctance to seek specialized treatment, not to mention the shortfalls of our already burdened health care system (ref 4). Providing care and treatment for seniors with mental health issues should be one of our foremost priorities as we move into the future.
Healthy aging requires individuals to adapt to their changing situation. Old age is a period of time often marked by a withdrawal from the community at large and the loss of a sense of purpose. Other factors such as the loss of a spouse or limited contact with family can conspire together to create feelings of loneliness in the elderly (ref 5). It has been widely observed that seniors who report being lonely face an increased risk for depression, other mental health disorders, and suicide. Depression is a relatively common in the elderly and has been strongly linked to poor health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and morbidity (ref 6).
Though the task is daunting, we believe that technology can provide us with the means to care for the growing population of seniors who suffer from feelings of loneliness and depression. Technology has become widely integrated into our society and holds tremendous potential for improving our quality of life. The technology created by Gerijoy is designed to leverage the benefits of the internet, tablet technology and human compassion to provide affordable companionship to seniors around the nation. We are hopeful, yet confident that we will be able to do so.
1. Age and Sex Composition: 2010. Census Briefs.
2. IOM. The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands? July 10 2012.
3. Druss BG, Rohrbaugh RM, Rosenheck RA, 2009. Depressive Symptoms and Health Costs in Older Medical Patients. Am J Psychiatry 156: 477-479.
4. Bartels SJ, Coakley EH, Zubritsky C, Ware JH, Miles KM, Arean PA, Chen H, Oslin DW, Llorente MD, Constantino G, Quijano L, McIntyre JS, Linkins KW, Oxman TE, Maxwell J, Levkoff SE, 2004. Improving Access to Geriatric Mental Health Services: A Randomized Trial Comparing Treatment Engagement With Integrated Versus Enhanced Referral Care for Depression, Anxiety, and At-Risk Alcohol Use. Am J Psychiatry 161: 1455-1462.
5. Singh A, Misra N, 2009. Loneliness, Depression and Sociability in old age. Ind Psychiatry J. 18(1): 51-55.
6. Loughlin A, 2004. Depression and social support: effective treatments for homebound elderly adults. J Geront Nurs 30(5): 11-15.
- Joey Orofino