beyondblue has identified and rated the best activities for improving and protecting the mental health of older Australians, in a new booklet specifically for aged care workers, but also helpful for other carers.

Based on La Trobe University research, the booklet rates activities on a scale of zero to three for how effective they are at improving older people’s mental health.

Activities identified in the booklet include playing computer games, interacting with clowns, spending time with animals and singing in a choir, among others.

Most activities featured are accompanied by case studies from across Australia, providing real examples of how activities have been implemented and the impact they have had.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the booklet, What works to promote emotional wellbeing in older people, is an invaluable resource for people who work with older adults in community or residential care.

“Around one in ten older adults experiences depression and a similar number experiences anxiety. Mental health conditions are even more common among older people in the community who are frail and need support to remain at home, and among those in residential care. Research shows nearly 35 per cent of people living in residential care facilities have depression,” she said.

“This resource makes it simple for aged care workers to determine the most effective strategies for improving the mental health of older people.

“Importantly, there are activities in the booklet to suit older people of all physical and cognitive capabilities, including those with memory problems or dementia. These range from physical activities like gardening and tai chi, to relaxation activities like meditation.

“Any aged care worker or concerned family members looking to improve the mental health of older people needs to read this book.”

The rating of each activity shows how effective it is at improving older people’s emotional wellbeing or helping alleviate depression or anxiety, in both community and residential care.

The ‘zero-to-three’ rating is based on how many studies within the past 15 years have found that the activity is effective, meaning anyone using the booklet can have confidence in the ratings.

The top five most effective activities for improving the emotional wellbeing of older people in community care are exercise, tai chi and qigong, self-help through books (bibliotherapy), computer-based therapies or computer games, and reminiscing on the older person’s life and the challenges they have overcome.

“Every Australian, regardless of their age, deserves good mental health. It keeps people satisfied, optimistic and gives them a sense of purpose and belonging,” said Ms Harman.

“This booklet makes it much easier for those caring for older people to make informed, evidence-based decisions on how to improve their mental health.”

What works to promote emotional wellbeing in older people is available online. Aged care providers, health providers and other relevant organisations can also request a printed version from the beyondblue website here.