Aging and Mental Health

senior_coupleExcept for dementia, the incidence of mental illness does not increase with age. Alzheimer’s disease is a common, but not inevitable consequence of aging – about 50 percent of people over the age of 95 suffer from it.

The majority of mental deterioration before age 80 is a result of the disease process, not aging. Although we all experience word finding difficulty as we age, there is no corresponding decline in IQ scores.

Successful vs. unsuccessful aging can be predicted from variables assessed before the age of 50. The absence of cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol use before the age of 50 are the most important protective factors for successful aging. Exercise is another important variable. Sixty one percent of the “happy-well,” but only 13 percent of the “sad-sick” were able to complete a five-minute treadmill test at age 19, according to a Harvard University study. Also, in this same study, at least 16 years of education was a predictor of better aging.

Intervention to Promote Successful Aging

Physical activity:

  • – Boosts overall physical functioning
  • – Reduces the risks of falls


  • – The single most effective intervention is caloric restriction accompanied by diets high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids

Reduce social isolation:

  • – Lowers the risk of dementia and depression
  • – Meditation has proven very useful for stress reduction in successful aging models
Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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