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Emotional wellbeing as you age

As you get older, it’s important to look after your emotional wellbeing as well as your physical health.

It can be hard to adjust to big life changes, such as retirement. You can also be affected by issues like health problems, loss of independence, the loss of loved ones and loneliness.

These changes can make you feel worried, sad, anxious or even depressed. But it’s good to know there are many ways to feel mentally well as you age.

Learn more about things that can affect your emotional wellbeing, what you can do and support services that can help.

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What can affect your emotional wellbeing as you age?

Lots of things can affect your emotional wellbeing as you get older. You may be affected by one major life change or many issues that build up over time.

Grief and loss

As you get older, you may experience different kinds of grief and loss. For example, you might feel a loss of independence if you have health problems, or you may feel a loss of identity when you retire. You’re also likely to grieve the loss of loved ones as you age.

These changes can make you feel sad, worried or even depressed. But there are many things you can do to feel mentally well. For example:

  • connect with friends, family and community groups
  • learn more about anxiety and what you can do about it
  • talk to your doctor about seeing a counsellor or psychologist.

You can also find useful information and supports on the following websites:

Social isolation

Social isolation and loneliness are growing issues for many older women in Australia. The 2018 Australian Loneliness Report found that 46% of Australians over 65 years feel they lack companionship at least sometimes, while about 9% say they feel lonely often, or always.

There are lots of health benefits associated with having good social connection.

It’s not always easy to maintain social connection but there are many things you can do to have an enjoyable social life.


Ageism is when people treat others differently because of their age. Many older people experience ageism in Australia. You might experience ageism in the community, at work or even within your family.

Many older women find it hard to stand up for themselves. If you need help with this, you can read our Staying confident as you age fact sheet.

You can learn more about age discrimination on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Relationship problems

You may experience relationship problems and family conflict as you get older. Common causes of tension include money, retirement planning, living arrangements and conflict between family members.

If this affects you, talk to your doctor. They might suggest you see a psychologist or get help from other professionals such as counsellors or mediators.

Visit the Relationships Australia website for help with difficult relationships.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is when someone you trust does something to cause you harm. Elder abuse includes things like neglect, financial abuse, physical abuse, social abuse and sexual abuse. This can be very upsetting and stressful.

If you are worried about elder abuse happening to you, talk to your doctor and they can help you find the right support.

You can also:

  • choose a trustworthy lawyer to manage your estate planning so your assets are protected and your wishes are followed
  • visit the Australian Banking Association website and download the fact sheet about how to protect yourself from financial abuse
  • visit the Australian Government website to learn about elder abuse and services that can help
  • learn more about elder abuse on the Australian Human Rights Commission website, including elder abuse resources in different languages
  • call the Australian elder abuse phone line 1800ELDERHelp (1800 353 374)
  • call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
  • call the police if your money has been stolen – financial abuse is a crime
  • call triple zero (000) in an emergency.

Physical health

Physical health problems can affect your mental health. If changes to your physical health are affecting your ability to enjoy life, it’s important to get help. Your doctor can link you to support services that will help you to stay safe and well at home.

Learn more about support services on the Australian Government My Aged Care website.

You can also visit the Australian Government Positive ageing website for information about how to live and age well.

Visit the LiveUp website (funded by the Australian Government) for information about how to stay independent around your home and in the community.

Caring for others

Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to people (e.g. partners, family members, friends or people in the community) who are older, have disability or physical or mental health conditions. About one in eight women in Australia are carers.

It can be challenging to juggle caring responsibilities with other daily demands, so it’s important to get the support you need to stay physically and mentally well.

You might be eligible for carer programs that give you a break (respite) and help you connect with other carers.

Learn more about carer programs on the Australian Government Carer Gateway website.

Visit the Carers Australia website to find Carers Australia organisations in your state to find Carers Australia organisations in your state

Accepting death as part of life

Even though we know we can’t live forever, it’s hard to think and talk about death. Coming to terms with death means accepting that everyone, including us, will die eventually.

Research shows that thinking about death can result in negative thoughts, but it can also help us to live better.

Accepting death can help you:

  • focus on important things in your life, including your health and relationships
  • live in the moment
  • live with purpose
  • organise your affairs (e.g. finances, end-of-life care and funeral plans).

If you find it hard to accept death, you can talk to a counsellor or a spiritual leader.

What you can do

There are many practical things you can do to have good mental health. For example:

When to see your doctor

Talk to your doctor if you haven’t been feeling yourself and your mental health stops you from doing things you normally do. They can refer you to local support services or other health providers to get the help you need.

Other resources and support

There are many organisations that can help if you’re concerned about your mental health.

  • My Aged Care provides aged care services. Call 1800 200 422.
  • Older Persons Advocacy Network offers free support and information for older people. Call 1800 700 600.
  • Open Arms provides mental health support for veterans, Australian Defence Force personnel and their families. Call 1800 011 046.
  • Head to Health can connect you to mental health support. Call 1800 595 212.
  • Lifeline supports people experiencing emotional distress. Call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Beyond Blue has information about mental health issues. Call 1300 22 4636.
  • Black Dog Institute provides information about better mental health.
  • SANE Australia supports people living with a mental illness. Call 1800 187 263.

You can also read or download our emotional wellbeing fact sheet.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Lim M, Society AP. Australian loneliness report: a survey exploring the loneliness levels of Australians and the impact on their health and wellbeing. researchbankswinburneeduau. Published online 2018.
Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018 | Australian Bureau of Statistics. Published September 25, 2020.
Vail KE 3rd, Juhl J, Arndt J, Vess M, Routledge C, Rutjens BT. When death is good for life: considering the positive trajectories of terror management. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2012;16(4):303-329. doi:10.1177/1088868312440046
Last updated: 
18 June 2024
Last reviewed: 
02 February 2024

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