It is well documented that the UK population is projected to continue ageing. The number of people aged 85 and over in the UK (1.4 million in 2012) is predicted to double in the next 20 years and nearly treble in the next 30. Almost all major diseases are common with increasing age, so it is anticipated that the proportion with chronic conditions and multiple disabilities will also increase. The number of people affected by dementia is set to double in the next 20 years.
Apart from dementia (the topic of NICE Clinical Guideline 42) the main mental wellbeing issues for older people are worry and low spirits, which may manifest as anxiety state and depression. A 2013 survey of wellbeing in the UK found that the proportion of older people with anxiety or depression declined in late middle age, but rose again in their 70s and 80s, reaching about 20%.
The challenge for primary care staff and others who come into contact with older people is to help them build resilience to these potential threats to their mental health, wellbeing, and independence.