Geriatric Mental Health

What is geriatric healthcare?

Geriatric healthcare describes the attentive medical care given to those over the age of 65 who are also referred to as seniors. Many individuals don’t seek geriatric healthcare until well into their 70s, 80s, or even 90s. A subspecialty in geriatric healthcare is geriatric psychiatry. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes geriatric psychiatry as addressing the “biological and psychological aspects of normal aging, the psychiatric effect of acute and chronic physical illness, and the biological and psychosocial aspects of the pathology of primary psychiatric disturbances of older age” (APA, 2021). Main focal points in geriatric psychiatry pertain to the “prevention, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders in the elderly and improvement of psychiatric care for healthy and ill elderly patients” (APA, 2021). Some of the most common psychiatric concerns that present in this population entail mood disorders such as depression and neurocognitive disorders such as dementia. 

How to help.

Seniors can greatly benefit from strong, supportive relationships and social networks. Connecting with others through volunteering opportunities, communities related to mutual interests such as art or music, or even fostering relationships through religious communities could be some ways seniors may strengthen their social circle. Developing a sense of community can help anyone feel supported and often incorporates shared interests and activities that give us a sense of purpose and motivation. 

Mental health professionals are crucial resources for those experiencing more severe and impairing symptomology. Fortunately, geriatric psychiatrists have focused their clinical attention and training on the concerns of our aging population, knowledgeable and experienced in treating their mental health concerns. Geriatric psychiatrists can prescribe medication to help geriatric patients manage and better cope with their symptoms, meet with family members or other physicians to coordinate care, and some can even provide psychotherapy along with medication management. 

Online Resources.

  • Health in Aging – a service from the American Geriatrics Society gives information for older adults/family members regarding mental health concerns.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Symptoms – a resource from the National Institute on Aging provides articles and advice for coping with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.
  • Cognitive Aging Efforts – created by the American Psychological Association, this site offers up-to-date webinars and informative publications regarding common geriatric concerns.


American Psychiatric Association. (2021). Geriatric Psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from