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Public Health (28-06-2010)

Mental Health and Well-being in Older People: High-level conference in Madrid 28-29 June 2010

A conference highlighting the importance of improving mental health and well-being in older people opens today in Madrid. Organised by the European Commission and the Spanish Ministry of health and social policies, this event is part of the European Pact for Health and Well-being. More than 150 experts will gather to discuss the issue and to share examples of initiatives that improve the mental health of older people.

To encourage all players - the Commission, national authorities, professionals and patients' organisations - to put the improvement of the mental health and well-being of older people at the heart of all relevant initiatives and policies, is the key aim of this conference. The 5 issues in the spotlight are:

  1. Healthy ageing and well-being: calling for conditions which support the social participation, meaningful roles and supportive environments for older people;
  2. Prevention of mental disorders and promotion of autonomy: calling for action to tackle the risk factors associated with poor mental health in older age, such as chronic physical and sensory disorders;
  3. Older people in vulnerable situations: calling for coordination of health and social welfare services and for tackling elder abuse;
  4. Health systems for care and treatment: calling for skilled and multidisciplinary teams for treating older people as well as high quality nursing homes and making use of new communicative technologies to improve care;
  5. Supporting informal carers: by providing this group that carries the highest burden in care with psychosocial as well as practical and social security support;

The ageing of the European population is one of the key demographic challenges facing the EU and will have a major impact on public health through an overall increase in the prevalence of mental health disorders. This is because depression and other mental health conditions are some of the key health problems among older people in Europe. Such disorders are associated with social isolation and loneliness as well as physical health problems. They affect not only the sufferer, but also family members who worry and often provide a significant share of the care.

Mental health in older people is one of the five priority themes of the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being. The Pact was launched in June 2008 and aims to highlight key areas in mental health and well-being through a series of high level conferences. This is the third such conference. Conferences on the themes of Mental Health in Youth and Education and Prevention of Depression and Suicide were held in 2009. The conferences on the remaining themes of Combating Stigma and Social Exclusion and Mental Health in Workplace Settings will take place at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, respectively.

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