Chandigarh,13.09.17-The Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER, Chandigarh, is organizing the 13th Annual National Conference of Indian Association for Geriatric Mental Health. This one and a half day conferencewill have deliberations on mental health issues like depression, dementia, elderly abuse, mental health of elderly in emergency care, neuropsychiatric manifestations of nutritional deficiencies, etc. The theme of the conference is“Integrated Care for Elderly”.

Considering the fact, elderly population is growing across the world; this conference focusses on this most important group of any society.  As per the World Health Organization, by 2050, there will be more people aged 60 years or greater, thanadolescents and youth. This unprecedented growth in this population will be much more than that would be seen, for any other age group. Life expectancy is likely to approach 80 yearsin Asia and 70 years in Africa by 2050.Accordingly, there is a need for health professionals in all specialties of medicine to be prepared to handle issues pertaining to the elderly.

India is going through a transition in the demographic status. There is an increase in the elderly population, which is also witnessing a change in social norms. This transition, to say the least, has been far from smooth. This poses a greater burden on society in general, with the elderly in particular finding it difficult to adapt to poor social support, physical illnesses and economic difficulties. Thus, it is important to address the needs of the elderly to ensure that they are adequately cared for. In a low‑resource country like India, the care for elderly people poses a great burden on the health‑care system and the economy. At present, in a country like India, dedicated specialized services for the elderly are scarce. Further, whatever services are available, are scattered to specific specialities and only a handful of centres provide comprehensive care for the elderly.The older adults have complex care needs that may require coordinated efforts among multiple physicians, direct care workers, informal caregivers, and multiple sites of care including community agencies as well as the home. Technological advances in pharmaceuticals and other interventions are also essential to assist in the process of integration of care. Accordingly, the theme of the conference highlights this issue and emphasizes that the elderly should be provided care under a single roof with holistic models for health care.

In many countries, including India, the same professionals cater to adults and as well as elderly. Accordingly, elderly have to compete with the adult population for the same health care services. When one compares the elderly with adult population, it is amply clear that the elderly are more prone to develop all kinds of physical illnesses, including chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis,etc.  Besides the physical illnesses, the elderly are also highly prone to develop psychiatric morbidity due to aging of the brain, problems with physical health, cerebral pathologies, and socioeconomic factors, such as decrease in economic independence and breakdown of the family system. Depression and dementia are the most common psychiatric disorders in the elderly, which not only decrease the quality of life of the aged individuals but also have a negative impact on their capacity for self‑care, ability to perform daily tasks of life, and also impose a significant economic and emotional burden on the family members. Amongst the elderly in India, depression is found to be extremely common, with nearly one third of the individuals found to be suffering from the same. This proportion can reach more than 70% when those elderly who are attending medical or psychiatric clinics are considered. Accordingly, it is also seen that number of depressed elderly in India, is higher than the rest of the world. The various risk factors for depression in elderly include higher age, female gender, loss of spouse, poor social support, physical illnesses, etc. It is recognised that treatment of depression can lead to better quality of life, thus, it is important to identify and treat the same.

Indian Association for Geriatric Mental Health is the only organization which focusses on the mental health of the elderly, and organizes its national conference annually. This conference gives an opportunity to researchers to showcase their research and gives an opportunity to trainees to learn the nuances of mental health of elderly. The conference is going to be attended by renowned researchers across the country working in the field of geriatric mental health and 400 delegates. The conference is also offering a post graduate fellowship for the first time to post graduate students across the country to participate in the conference. The fellows will receive complimentary accommodation and registration to enable them to attend the conference. The association has started this program as a capacity building measure.