Woman, 80, sits and cries herself to sleep with worry over cost of living crisis

The elderly have been left crying themselves to sleep over the cost of living crisis and bereavement according to a national charity.

Independent Age are urging the Government to end the “neglect” of older people’s mental health.

They say their research has found low expectations of mental health services in people aged over 55.

Yet those who spoke to their researchers told how their mental health is deteriorating because of the cost-of-living crisis.

Worryingly, they said, 20% of respondents in England over 55 with a diagnosed mental health condition said they hadn’t received any support in the last 5 years, with one distraught pensioner telling them she was better off during World War II.

Dorothy, who is in her 80s, told them: “I watch the TV and that’s gone up too. I only watch it now in the evenings. I used to do the lottery, but I don’t do that any more. That’s £4 that I can’t afford.

“If I had any spare money, I’d buy something like a dress. I can’t do that now. It’s dreadful when you get to my age.

“It never used to be this bad – during the war we had food to eat. We never went without anything. I sit and cry my eyes out sometimes.

“You just get so low, and you can’t sleep at night.”

One in ten older people in England have moderate or severe anxiety or depression, the charity found in their earlier research which also told how low income was also leaving the elderly in “despair”.

Independent Age is calling on older people to give their views to the Government consultation because they say fears of long waiting lists and inadequate support could be preventing older people from accessing mental health services.

Their research used YouGov statistics and they found that in people over 55; 25% believe healthcare professionals are too busy to deal with mental health treatments; 20% believe healthcare professionals may not take mental health treatments seriously and 58% believe the waiting list to get talking therapy is too long.

A further 11% believe healthcare professionals only prescribe medication and 6% believe there are no effective treatments for mental health currently available.

The charity says that these preconceptions mean people could be missing out on vital support.

Retired police officer, Russell, 74, is urging pensioners to seek help like he did and said: “My problem was bereavement. It has been three years since my wife passed away.

“We were married 47 years and without her I was left crying myself to sleep.

“At the time I had fantastic family support and friends and after around six weeks I went to the bereavement group with the local hospice and I found that a tremendous help.

“Then I had a period of one-to-one counselling. But I really did find that helpful.

“My wife and I were each other’s counsellor prior to that. We never needed anybody else. When my wife was here we could put up with anything.

“Over the years we both lost our parents and we coped with that together. “

He said of the problem with the elderly not seeking mental health support: “We were always brought up to get on with it.

“When I was a police officer, the only counselling back then was ‘go and have a cup of tea’ and if it was really bad they would make you a cup of tea. That’s when you knew it was traumatic.”

He said he was also always told “big boys don’t cry” but said he is “very emotional” and urged other pensioners to get help, just like he did.

Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said: “We know that more than one million older people in the UK currently live with moderate or severe anxiety and depression.

“Inevitably, we have also heard from people about how the pandemic and current cost-of-living crisis has taken its toll on their levels of stress and anxiety.

“Despite this, we continue to see the needs of older people being neglected when it comes to improving their mental health.

“…Any long-term plan needs to consider how to break down the barriers that stop older people accessing the full range of support options available to them.”