Psychosocial Needs of the Elderly: Care for the Mind

Senior citizens have mental and psychosocial needs that need to be taken care of. Learn how to provide the best care for your aging loved one.

As people age, their physical problems and needs will also change. They can develop a mental illness, making caring for them different and difficult.

But before looking into clinical interventions, there are several things you should know about caring for older patients.

These will help your loved ones improve their physical health and avoid family problems.

Five Psychosocial Needs of the Elderly

Health care for aging adults doesn’t just stop at their physical needs. Their emotional well-being and psychosocial aspects also need to be taken into account.

Here are the psychosocial needs of the elderly that must be provided to help maintain the health of older adults.

1.) Personal Connections

All humans have a basic need to socialize and make connections with others around them, and older adults are no exception.

The elderly don’t necessarily need to connect with peers of the same age. They can also turn to family members and friends, regardless of age.

If possible, social media is a great alternative to face-to-face communication since the interaction it provides will allow senior citizens to stay connected to their friends, albeit remotely.

Focus groups can also be created for the main purpose of forming and keeping relationships. In this case, senior citizens can take the opportunity to make new friends.

Outside of an assisted living facility, the family is an excellent source of connections for an older person. Plan family activities that your aging parent can participate in.

These will help sharpen their mind as well as form connections.

2.) A Sense of Community

Having a sense of community can be an effective form of emotional support for older adults.

This will help with their mental health, especially if they feel like they are contributing in meaningful ways.

Helping your older family members get out and about in their local community will help improve their well-being, and there’s more than one way to go about it.

For example, if your loved one wants to do some grocery shopping or attend a church service, you could point them to a local transportation service that caters to seniors.

They can then use these services to form a daily routine like regularly visiting the local park whenever they want. This support will also help with their sense of independence.

3.) Sense of Purpose

To avoid feelings of depression and anxiety, older adults will benefit from a solid sense of purpose.

They could choose to positively affect their local communities by doing volunteer work.

But older patients can go further. Older adults can enjoy a better quality of life by revisiting their old hobbies or even picking up new ones.

They can also develop new interests to spend their time on. Another proven effective method of social support involves helping the younger generation.

By serving as a mentor to their younger family members or doing meaningful things for their loved ones, elderly people can reduce the negative effects of aging.

4.) Mental Health and Stimulation

Dementia can be avoided through mental stimulation. This is a common need for people going through late life.

As people age, they’ll need more and more support with the things they want to do. But before they get to that final stage, their mental health can be improved in a few ways.

One of them is to ensure that your loved one is included in family social gatherings. This psychosocial need can also be fulfilled through encouragement from other family members.

Encourage older adults to continue reading and finding new ways to learn. You could also play word games with them or find some brain-teasing exercises.

Another good activity is to ask them to take up scrapbooking to help them maintain a good look at their life. This will also address the effects of dementia and aid in recalling happy memories.

Another effective method that families can use is very simple. Share stories and memories with your older family members to help them remember.

5.) Emotional Expression

One of the psychosocial needs that professional caregivers need to address is their older patient’s ability to express themselves.

This goes beyond regular hospice care and is more an issue of daily living. An important part of providing home care for elderly adults is keeping them involved and active in decisions that will affect them.

Well-meaning family members might be unable to see past the physical health issues affecting older adults. To support older patients properly, you cannot go through the motions of care.

Family members must pay special attention to how the aging adults feel and address their needs or concerns when they come up.

Apart from the other services involved in care, an easy way to maintain healthy relationships with older adults is to ask them how they are doing and be genuinely interested.

Examples and Case Studies of Meeting Psychosocial Needs

Understanding the importance of psychosocial needs among the elderly is crucial for their overall well-being. In this section, we will explore various initiatives that have successfully addressed these needs, providing real-world examples of how communities and organizations have made a difference in the lives of older adults.

Socialization and Support Groups

In a small town in Wisconsin, a community center organizes weekly socialization events for elderly residents. These events include card games, art classes, and group discussions, allowing older adults to engage with their peers and maintain meaningful connections.

This initiative has led to increased feelings of belonging and reduced loneliness among participants.

Intergenerational Programs

A retirement community in Florida partnered with a local elementary school to create an intergenerational program. The program encourages seniors and children to engage in activities such as gardening, reading, and crafting.

This collaboration has not only fostered friendships across generations but also provided an opportunity for seniors to share their wisdom and experience with younger generations, resulting in improved mental well-being for the elderly participants.

Research Supporting the Importance of Psychosocial Needs

Several studies have emphasized the importance of addressing psychosocial needs among the elderly population. A study by Nicholson, (2012) found that social isolation is a significant risk factor for cognitive decline and mortality in older adults. Similarly, Hawkley and Cacioppo (2010) reported that loneliness can lead to increased morbidity and mortality rates among seniors.

Research also shows that maintaining a sense of purpose can positively impact an older person’s psychological well-being. A study by Ryff (2014) found that seniors with a strong sense of purpose had lower rates of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

Psychosocial Needs of the Elderly in Nursing Homes

Psychosocial Needs of the Elder

Nursing homes are secure areas where older patients can be safe, but they still need to satisfy the psychosocial needs of the elderly.

Physical Support

There are many sicknesses that older patients can come down with. These include both physical and psychosocial issues.

These issues will affect their health and can cause anxiety, so the nursing home your aging parent goes to must have provisions for these illnesses.

These are the common issues that nursing homes should have provisions for:

  • Hearing loss
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Joint pain

Don’t settle for adequate living conditions for your loved one. Ensure that the nursing home they end up at is fully staffed by professional caregivers and is a safe and secure area for them.

It would be best if the caregivers kept a routine for their patients, but it shouldn’t be too rigid. Otherwise, your loved one may feel they are losing their agency.

Emotional Support

Depression and anxiety are common in elders living in nursing homes.

This may be because they are uncomfortable in their new surroundings or because their emotional well-being is not a priority of their caregivers.

Ensure that the caregivers for your loved one are not neglecting the elderly’s need to be heard and express themselves.

Ask your elderly parent if they are being spoken to, if their caregivers are interested in their hobbies, and if they are enjoying their time in the nursing home.

It’s your duty as a family member to check up on your loved ones and see whether they are receiving emotional support.

Remember that no caregiver can fully replace a family member’s emotional support.

Psychosocial Problems of Elderly

Aging affects elderly people in different ways. Some older adults may develop anxiety or lose their confidence.

Others will withdraw from their families. Here are some of the psychosocial issues that will affect older-age adults.

1.) Loneliness and Seclusion

Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health issues can affect the ability of residents to foster and maintain relationships.

Social gatherings may seem out of reach to them because of their psychosocial issues. This will negatively affect their social life, putting them at risk of isolation.

A good way of caring for older adults involves encouraging them to form new relationships with other residents while also keeping up with their older friends.

Keeping these connections to family members and friends will prevent isolation and help improve their quality of life.

2.) Substance Abuse

The anxiety of aging brings many problems for older residents.

Moving out of their homes, fear of developing dementia, and other issues could cause older adults to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse.

These will negatively affect their physical health, so families must look out for any psychosocial issues that could trigger this response.

Family members can help their aging parents develop positive strategies to cope with their anxiety and other challenges of daily living that they might be facing.

Searching for mentors and counselors to speak to their aging parents is a method families can use. Another is encouraging their loved ones to take up fun new hobbies.

These can help aging adults avoid turning to substance abuse when faced with challenges.

3.) Family Issues

Older patients going through family problems will often experience anxiety coupled with a lack of self-confidence.

This can result in depression for your loved ones, negatively impacting their quality of life.

These family issues can also stem from older conflicts left unresolved for older adults and their family members.

Psychosocial issues of this nature may hinder residents from forming important personal goals as they age.

It can be compounded if the family members with which they have issues are present at family get-togethers.

You can help tackle this anxiety and depression by speaking with your loved one.

Help them to work through and move past these family issues, and come up with strategies to handle these issues should they come up again.

4.) Reduced Self-Esteem

A patient’s condition can negatively impact their confidence in themselves and reduce their self-esteem. Illnesses like dementia can also result in fear and grief in older patients.

Positive encouragement is the key here. Ask the older patients under your care to try new things or revisit their older goals.

This will serve as an important boost to their confidence and mental health.

Older patients who have the support of their families may also be more receptive to suggestions like changing treatments or accepting care from professional caregivers.

5.) Hygiene and Health Care

Dementia and reduced cognitive abilities can result in older adults no longer being able to maintain their appearance.

This accidental self-neglect can be one of the more distressing psychosocial aspects of aging, but it can be remedied.

If appearances are an issue, families can help their aging parents by helping them with their grooming.

Dressing them, helping them keep clean, and dropping by to help out with the laundry are all proven ways of helping older adults improve the quality of their life.

Be prepared to speak with them candidly and kindly about their age, and that you love them and only want to make sure they look and feel their best.

6.) Stress

Many things can stress aging adults. A lack of financial support, a consequence of age like hearing loss, or even dementia can stress senior citizens.

Stress from either internal or external sources will activate the body’s “fight or flight” response. Also known as the “stress response,” the human body adjusts to stressors in various ways.

These ways are intended to help prepare the body to respond to the situation faster. However, the stress response will have poor effects in the long term.

Research from the social sciences has proven that being constantly stressed will negatively affect older residents.

These psychosocial issues have been connected to physical problems such as diminished energy and lowered self-esteem.

Signs of Stress

This issue goes beyond the psychological problems that older patients face because it manifests in physical symptoms.

Apart from physical signs, there are also mental signs caused by stress. Caregivers should be wary of these signs in their aging patients.

  • Chest pain and stomach issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Both undereating and overeating
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Depression and sadness
  • Problems with sleep
  • An inability to concentrate

Elderly Psychosocial Development

Elderly Psychosocial Development

This section will explain a few psychosocial aspects of providing proper care to older patients.

Studies prove that the most effective way to learn about older persons is to interact with them through educational interventions. This goes for both caregivers and families with older adults.

What About the Personal Values of the Elderly?

Caregivers who wish to look after their patient’s health must also look at the values and beliefs of their patients.

Everyone has a unique set of values and beliefs developed throughout life. Your experiences and relationships form your sense of identity and self-esteem.

Caregivers and adults with senior parents have a duty and responsibility to their patients. This duty means being aware of the different contexts that their parents or patients can bring.


These are principles or a quality that you will tend to uphold. They work as a guide for making decisions and living a proper life, at least according to you.

People will usually pick up values and base them on specific beliefs regarding behavior. It also influences your common sense and behavior.

That’s why caregivers have to understand the different values that their patients may have in order to keep their health in top shape.


These start as experiences, but whatever inspired them is usually quickly forgotten. Once forgotten, they will guide you subconsciously.

Beliefs make up a large part of our identity, and they can greatly affect our work and how we relate to friends and colleagues.

They can also be affected by the culture we grew up in, our morals, and our religious faith.

Caregivers for older adults will come with their own previous beliefs and ideas about many things, like depression, age-related problems and disabilities, and others.

Be careful not to let these stereotypes about age affect how you treat your older patients. Please don’t make assumptions about them based on their age and actions.

Consider Their Perspective to Give Better Health Care

Age doesn’t change your personal values and other parts of your personality, as explained below. The same goes for those tasked with providing good care to older adults.

Control your values and beliefs about the patients you’ll be taking care of. Please do not come up with care options based on what you believe they need.

Instead, listen and pay attention to your patient. Consider what the patient thinks they will need.

Keep this consideration in mind and remember that older patients may not always be able to make decisions independently. Don’t press your own beliefs onto your patients.

Pressing them will only serve to judge them, not help them. No matter what conditions your patient has, like depression, you must also be a role model to your older patients.

This is especially true for the senior citizen’s family, who may stop at providing for their parent’s health, but forget about their parent’s other needs.

What Is the Continuity Theory?

This theory suggests that aging does not affect the way elderly people see themselves through data analysis. This theory includes the individual’s approach to everything in their lives.

Despite getting a little older, they will continue to see themselves as they did when they were younger. Problem-solving skills, goals and awareness will remain the same.

This implies that a group of senior citizens who are 75 years old and above, for example, will see themselves as if they were younger individuals. The only difference will be that their bodies are older.

The continuity theory also affects elderly people who have moved on or no longer hold their previous roles.

For example, a former career soldier may continue to meet up with their friends from the service, stay up to date with new tools, and keep their personal appearance neat.

This routine will help them maintain their sense of self and their identity. Senior citizens don’t tend to let go of who they were as they get older. This will help them keep their self-esteem.

Hopefully, this will help their mental health as they get older since hobbies and personal interests will keep their minds sharp and allow them to share their knowledge with others.


As part of their psychosocial care, older adults will often turn towards activities of generativity.

In brief, this means social activities that are specifically meant to aid the younger generation and improve the lives and well-being of society as a whole.

This can take many forms, like volunteer work in their local communities

Studies have shown that older adults will usually opt to help their family members and neighbors instead of joining a specific volunteer organization.

Elderly people who choose to join volunteer organizations tend to be either part-time workers or recently retired themselves.

Older adults who are not working are more likely to feel as if they have nothing to contribute, so they are also less likely to do volunteer work.

Elderly Psychosocial Solutions

Families are more than just the people you grow up with. They’re also an extremely valuable source of support for providing care for elderly adults.

Use the methods below to help reduce the risk of your aging parents developing dementia and anxiety.

1.) Put Activity Theory Into Practice

Psychosocial care begins with the self, because any improvement in health for older adults will also come with many additional benefits.

The Activity theory was first suggested in 1953. It suggests that the key to better health for senior adults is being active. The many changes that come with old age are often a source of anxiety.

Changes to one’s body and mind, and losing the people they love. Retirement can also bring about anxiety, as senior citizens who once had a schedule now struggle to find things to do.

This is exactly what Activity theory helps to address. It recommends that the elderly “put themselves out there,” so to speak.

Make friends, take care of grandchildren, and do volunteer work. Instead of sitting at home, the elderly can improve their physical and mental health by keeping themselves active and busy.

This is a form of social support that relies on the elderly person being able and willing to interact with others.

It’s found success mainly in recently-retired seniors, but it can work with adults over 75 too.

2.) Regular Diet and Exercise

These twinned methods are similar to the Activity theory above, but it’s much better for maintaining energy levels in aging adults.

No matter your age, a great way to stay healthy is to eat right and exercise often. Older patients may be resistant to this idea at first and will point to their lower energy levels.

However, that’s precisely what this solution is meant for. As part of their daily schedule, senior citizens should exercise regularly to improve their blood circulation.

This better blood circulation will come with more oxygen and more energy for the elderly to move.

Staying healthy also means eating properly, but you will need to refer your elderly parent to a registered dietitian so that they can create a meal plan that will work best for your loved one.

3.) Hiring a Caregiver

If your loved one is currently going through the advanced stages of dementia, it may be too difficult for your family to continue to care for them.

This is when you should consider hiring a caregiver. An outside perspective that is detached from your aging parent can provide care for them without too much emotional distress.

You must hire a trustworthy caregiver who will have your parent’s best needs at heart.

Reduce the confusion and anxiety that your parent might experience by taking it slow. Let the caregiver know beforehand of anything that might irritate their patient.

Don’t forget to speak to your parent to let them know your intentions and who this new person is.

Older patients will eventually reach the final stage of their life, which is when planning their care will shift from providing support to end-of-life care.

A caregiver can be there to make your aging parent’s final moments less painful and ensure they pass comfortably.

Psychosocial vs. Psychological

It’s important to explain the difference between “Psychosocial” and “Psychological.”

They may sound the same, but they aren’t. The main difference can be found by looking at the end of both words. “Social” vs “Logical.”

Psychosocial refers to the mental behavior of a section of society, or the society as a whole.

Psychological refers to mental health and mental behavior in general, apart from society.

The psychosocial needs of older patients will also depend on their physical health plus any psychological problems they may be suffering from.


Older adults are at risk of suffering from many different problems, both physical and mental.

These problems can be worked through by encouraging them to stay active, keep their mind sharp through learning new things, and staying interested in hobbies.

Age is not a barrier for a fulfilling and stimulating life. The family can play a positive effect on the mental health of their parents.Work with your loved ones so that they can enjoy their twilight years in health and comfort.

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