Twenty Years of Promoting the Mental Health of Older Adults


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The Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health (CCSMH), a national not-for-profit organization, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The Coalition was established in 2002 during a Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry Symposium. The symposium participants overwhelmingly supported establishing an organization that would represent and advocate for seniors’ mental health issues and help develop and facilitate public and professional awareness of seniors’ mental health issues. And so, the CCSMH was born.

The CCSMH’s mandate is to promote older adults’ mental health and amplify the message that positive mental health can be enjoyed at every age. The Coalition has been led by three co-chairs, Dr. David Conn, Dr. Le Clair, and Dr. Kiran Rabheru, a Steering Committee and several outstanding Executive Directors (currently Claire Checkland). The Coalition has developed multiple evidence-based resources, from first-of-a-kind national guidelines to clinical tools and professional development products geared to health care providers.

This information has been adapted into resources for older adults and their families/caregivers. With a small staff and many interdisciplinary connections, CCSMH is responsive and adapts to the ever-changing needs of the older population, ensuring that seniors’ mental health is recognized as a key Canadian health and wellness issue.

The Areas of Focus page on the CCSMH website outlines work focused on delirium, depression, mental health in long-term care, suicide prevention and risk, substance use disorders and most recently, the release of accredited eLearning modules on Cannabis and Older Adults. Current initiatives include the development of national clinical guidelines and other tools and resources on anxiety and anxiety disorders, social isolation and loneliness, as well as mental health issues while living with dementia.

Staying Mentally Healthy

The Canadian population is aging. According to Statistics Canada, nearly one in five Canadians today are 65 and older, and by 2030, older adults will make up 23 per cent of the population. Some older adults (one in four) live with mental health problems or illnesses like depression, anxiety, and dementia. Unfortunately, older adults, especially men, have high rates of suicide. On the other hand, most older Canadians (70 per cent) considered themselves in very good or excellent mental health last year (StatsCan, 2021), and 82 per cent enjoyed an overall higher life satisfaction than their younger counterparts (StatsCan, 2016).

collage of older individuals doing activities
Collage of People © Courtesy of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health

Many strategies for staying physically healthy—being physically active, getting proper sleep, eating a balanced diet and keeping our stress down—also help keep our brains healthy. Keeping our minds and emotions healthy can also be supported by staying connected with family and friends and making new friends. Connecting to others helps us feel like we belong, reducing isolation. Look for activities that bring you into contact with others and provide opportunities for interaction.

Finding and feeding your purpose never gets old. Our purpose and goals might change, but the need to have meaning in our lives persists. A 2018 study showed that having a strong “purpose in life” was related to less use of the health care system, greater uptake of practices that keep us healthy, and a higher quality of life.

The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health welcomes new partnerships and supporters. Please visit to access eLearning modules, mental health resources, and learn more about becoming an affiliate, making a donation and subscribing to the mailing list.

Anyone who may be experiencing persistent symptoms that negatively impact their mental health is encouraged to reach a local crisis line by calling 1-833-456-4566, toll-free anywhere in Canada.

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Seniors’ mental health is a key health and wellness issue in Canada. The CCSMH works to promote seniors’ mental health by connecting people, ideas and resources.


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