Later-Life

Older AdultS' (65+) MENTAL HEALTH

Older adults experience more social isolation and loneliness than any other age group. Being isolated or lonely can lead to a host of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. One in five older adults will experience difficulties with mental health, and lack of attention and support for mental health not only impacts the individual's quality of life, but costs the health system billions. PMH is examining how technology can help older adults feel less socially isolated and lonely, with the hope that we can improve their mental health.

Our Challenge and Goal

Our challenge is to understand what older adults believe is good mental health, and to identify the things in life that make and keep an older person mentally healthy.

Stakeholder-Informed

We integrate the knowledge and lived experience of older adults in our research to ensure our work is meaningful, relevant, useful, and usable. The perspectives of stakeholders (older-adults) are consulted in our work to shape research questions, design studies, communicate findings, and move results into the world. By aligning perspectives of older adults with those of the research team, we will increase the likelihood that our project outcomes will be relevant to older adults.

For example, PMH has appointed a standing Research Advisory Panel (RAP) consisting of older adults who are active participants in informing research projects and articulating the research questions and methods. 

Big Data

Using Big Data resources focusing on older Canadians, we developtrain precision mental health models to predict which individuals are vulnerable to poor mental health. For example, we employ The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) which is a national random sample of 50,000 Canadian women and men aged 45 to 85 years old. All participants are asked to provide a common set of information on demographic, social, physical/clinical, psychological, economic, and health service utilization relevant to health and aging. Using datasets like the CLSA, we can leverage Big Data approaches to spearhead precision mental health in these existing resources, maximizing the value of previously collected data to create targeted interventions to improve the mental health of older adults.

Technology and Older Adults

Exponential growth in technological innovations has made technology a ubiquitous feature of daily life. Older adults now have increasing access to information and communication technology (ICT) devices, such as smartphones and wearables. Globally, there is increasing interest in ICT for older adults; however, older adults are generally not the targets of technological innovation, and the degree to which any technology is effective is directly related to the integration of this device into one’s daily life. Although rates of technology use amongst older adults are rising, these levels fall well short of younger demographics. This represents a missed opportunity for the implementation of technology-enabled mental health solutions. PMH’s goal is to determine which technologies can be utilized for improved mental health, and design technological interventions and systems to improve mental health.

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