How Can You Improve Mental Health and Wellbeing in Later Life?

World Mental Health Day on October 10th is designed to promote greater awareness of issues around mental health and to help remove the stigma that can surround it.

Mental health problems are more common than many people imagine, particularly in later life. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 22% of men and 28% of women over 65 suffer from depression. So, what are the most important factors in maintaining good mental health in later life?


Good personal relationships are well known to promote better mental health. All normal human interactions affect the levels of chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin.

Serotonin is important for general mental wellbeing as it helps the brain to function normally. Oxytocin is sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ as it affects our ability to form personal relationships. Human interactions help to boost the levels of these healthy chemicals, which is partly why isolation and loneliness can be so harmful to mental wellbeing.

Participation in Meaningful Activities

Keeping active, doing something purposeful and interacting with other people have also been proven to help maintain good mental health. This won’t surprise anybody; but it can be a challenge to find the right types of activities that are accessible in later life. You have to wonder how much health spending could be saved by investing in more community activities for older people.

Physical Health

Physical health and mental health are closely linked. A good diet helps to boost the levels of healthy chemicals in the body and also provides the energy to take part in activities. Regular exercise is also important, whether that’s walking, gardening or a few gentle stretches with friends during the day.

Care providers have a vital role to play in promoting better mental health in older people. We need to work closely with health services and ensure we support people in our care with the right nutrition and activities. We’re also aware that we may be the first to notice the signs of mental health problems – so we need to make sure our people are trained in what to look for and what to do.

At Altogether Care, resident’s health and wellbeing are at the focus of what we do. If you would like to find out more about either our care homes, care at home or our live-in care services please get in touch.

Why Couples Need to Plan for Care Home Fees

Financial planning for retirement and later life rarely includes the possibility of care home fees. Yet, even for people with modest assets who are receiving local authority funded care, fees can take a large chunk out of your estate. For couples it is particularly important to plan ahead and minimise your exposure.

The rules are quite complex and will change again in 2020 when the cap of £72,000 on care costs comes into force. Because local authorities are short of cash they are rigorously enforcing the rules that require people to fund some or all of their care.

Currently, anyone with assets of over approximately £23,000 will need to pay the entire cost of their care. The value of your home isn’t counted for care received in your own home but may be if you need to move into residential care. In most cases the fees are collected from the estate rather than being paid at the time.

This is where the wording in your Will becomes important. If one partner needs to go into residential care, it is possible to protect at least half of the estate from being used to pay the cost of care. However, you need to plan this while both partners are still alive. Once one partner has died there is very little you can do.

Giving away assets during your lifetime to avoid care home fees will almost certainly fail and can make life very complicated for the beneficiaries. Placing your home into a trust while you are alive so that it is effectively ‘owned’ by your children is also risky. If the council decides that you acted to deliberately avoid care home fees they will still try to recover them.

Passing half of the combined estate directly to your children on the death of the first partner also carries risks and complications, particularly for the surviving partner.

The safest option is to have a solicitor write appropriate trust arrangements into your Wills. This is the most effective way to minimise the amount of your assets that can be used to pay care bills and protect at least half of the estate for the surviving partner. And remember to review these arrangements periodically as the rules around fees and eligibility are likely to keep changing.

As ever, the further you plan ahead the better. If you don’t have a Will or if you haven’t considered the possibility of care fees you should talk to a qualified legal practitioner now to ensure that you have covered yourself for the future.

Some recent day to day activities