Dr Andrew Rochford's mental health warning for older Aussies

Dr Andrew Rochford
Dr Andrew Rochford says mental health is a serious issue for older Australians.

Older Australians are at risk of developing a mental health issue because they aren’t good at talking about and communicating their feelings, says Australia’s most famous television doctor, Andrew Rochford.

About 15 per cent of older Australians are living with some kind of mental health issue, most commonly depression or anxiety, and Rochford says “it’s something to be seriously concerned about”.

“Mental health is something that really needs to be addressed for Baby Boomers in a huge way,” he told Starts at 60.

“It’s already a worry and the older they get it’s only going to get worse.”

He says growing up in an era when mental health was shunned and pushed under the rug has made over-60s particularly vulnerable to developing mental health issues.

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“The younger generations tend to be a bit more open with communication and talking about their feelings,” he explains. “But Baby Boomers learned from their parents, who were probably worse even still with being open about their feelings.”

As Australia’s Baby Boomers enter the retirement phase of their lives, they’re subjected to huge changes.

After 40 years or so in the workforce many are quitting for good, which can cause huge disruptions to social lives and a loss of a sense of purpose.

Health issues also naturally increase and many Boomers are subjected to frequent bouts of loss as older friends and relatives pass on. Beyond Blue says this can lead to loneliness or depression for those left behind.

Our minds need regular stimulation to stay healthy and being active and socially engaged are two of the easiest ways to do this.

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“You’ve really got to do your best in those later stages to add purpose to your weeks and days,” Rochford says. 

“Whether that’s volunteering, or continuing to work part time or being involved in social groups, is hugely important for two reasons. One is mental health, in that it helps maintain your mental health.

“Second, it reduces your risk of age-related brain degeneration because your mind is being stimulated. The whole idea is if you don’t use it you lose it.”

Today is R U OK Day and we encourage all older Australians to pass on the message and ask each other, ‘R U OK?’

Do you think older Aussies need to talk more openly about mental health? Do you think there is still a stigma attached to mental health?

Dr Rochford’s new book The Reality Checkup: Finding the prefect non-perfect version of yourself is out now.