National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;


For Immediate Release, January 16, 2001
Contact: Chris Marshall

The Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, today released a new report on older adults and mental health that identifies an emerging "national crisis in geriatric mental health." The report, Older Adults and Mental Health: Issues and Opportunities, is considered a companion piece to the Surgeon General's landmark report on mental health released in December of 1999.

According to the AoA report, of critical concern is the expected jump in the nation's elderly population as babyboomers begin to enter this age group. It is estimated that in less than thirty years, older adults will account for 20% of the population, up from 13% percent today. The AoA report notes that currently, in the age group of 55 or older, 20% of Americans experience a mental illness with some evidence showing that the occurrence of these illnesses may be underreported. Also, suicide occurs at a higher rate in older adults than in any other age group.

With this impending need on the horizon, the AoA examined services and health care available to elderly Americans with mental illness and found that older Americans are denied access to needed treatment and services. The report cites several barriers to access such as a fragmented mental healthcare system, inadequate funding for treatment and services, services gaps, lack of professional training for the delivery of geriatric mental health treatment and services, and poor collaboration and coordination among providers. Stigma surrounding mental illnesses is also cited as a barrier to healthcare.

The AoA report, a call to action to meet the needs of older adults with mental illnesses, describes several strategies (listed below) to ensure that appropriate and effective treatment and services will be available.

  • Prevention and early intervention services
  • Workforce issues: shortage and need for education of providers
  • Coordinating and strengthening financing of mental health services
  • Increase collaboration among providers and also with consumer groups
  • Ensure access to affordable, comprehensive, quality mental health care
  • Increase public awareness and education
  • Expand research into aging and mental illness
  • Encourage consumer involvement
  • Address the needs of special populations (multi-cultural issues)

To view a copy of the Aging Administration's report online, go to or call the National Aging Information Center at (202) 619-0724.