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Exploring mental health and wellbeing in older women: call for volunteers

Medical & health articles 5 Apr 2019
Mental health older women volunteer callout

Jean Hailes is creating a series of videos and we're looking for women aged 65 and over who feel comfortable talking about their experiences of ageing – both positive and negative.

These videos are being created in light of recent research conducted by Monash University, Jean Hailes and Liptember. The aim of this research was to learn from women of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) what contributes to and hinders their mental health and wellbeing. The ultimate goal is to change the stereotype of the older woman, so that instead of being seen as a burden on society, she is instead a valued contributor.

The call for volunteers received a wonderful response. A total of 18 women were interviewed in depth about older women's lives in general and their own in particular. The women were well distributed across the birth years of 1946-1964 and diverse in place of residence, partner status, education, and place of birth, as well as in life experiences.

The main sources of adverse effects on women's mental health were identified as illness and disability, financial insecurity, maltreatment, and loss and grief. Contributors to good mental health were identified as physical activity, social support, good nutrition, being heard, and faith or belief. These factors did not suddenly emerge with older age but were, on the whole, active contributors across the lifespan.

In order to achieve optimum mental health, women wanted others – people and organisations – to treat older women with respect, to provide good health care (which included the need to understand the context of women's lives and not just to focus on symptoms), and to contribute to an environment that valued them and enhanced their independence and sense of self-worth.

The researchers are grateful to the participants and to all the generous women who volunteered.