Aging Well: Mental Health Among Seniors

Summary of Panel Presentation:

This panel explored the topic of aging and mental health. Life expectancy is increasing for many Americans, particularly “Baby Boomers”, and, with that, the prospects of living longer with physical and/or psychological illness. Positive strategies to promote mental wellness must include not only increased awareness of mental health issues affecting older adults, but also factors that foster quality of life, including building resilience and promoting avenues for regular socialization. Strategies for building a positive sense of purpose for older adults are also important to consider, whether we are older ourselves, taking care of someone older or working with older adults. Panelists explored these complexities of mental health issues that face the elderly, discuss the positive strategies that may be helpful in leading a healthy and “well” life in older adulthood, and hear the lived experience of an older adult diagnosed with a mental illness.
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Dale L Ofei-Ayisi_smDale L. Ofei-Ayisi, MA LCSW has over 38 years of post-Masters’ clinical and administrative experience in medical and behavioral health social work, with direct practice expertise in geriatric and dementia care, critical care, rehabilitation intervention with family caregivers, and as a professional and community health educator since 1975. She is currently a Coordinator of Community Services and Program Supervisor of the E.A.R.S. for Caregivers Program of COPSA Geriatric Services, was a recipient of the UBHC “Excellence Award” in July 2005. She received a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University in 1973, and an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago in 1975. She is a member of N.J. Division of Aging and Disabled Services (DHHS), N.J. Division of Mental Health Services and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-NJ). She is a former member of the Board of Director for both the Alzheimer’s Association (Greater N.J. Chapter) and Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey, and on July 15, 2013 was inducted to a three-year term as a Board Member on the State Board of Trustees for NAMI NJ.
Michelle zechnemr_smMichelle Zechner, MSW, LSW, CPRP is an Assistant Professor at UMDNJ-SHRP, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Programs and has focused her career on helping people recovering from psychiatric disabilities and their families for the past 20 years. She has worked in a variety of settings including: outpatient services, case management, nursing homes, training services, and public mental health administration. Currently, Michelle consults with state psychiatric hospitals on the implementation of evidence-based mental health practices and older adults, teaches and conducts research. Michelle has presented locally and nationally at a number of venues on topics ranging from wellness and recovery, aging with mental illness, and health promotion strategies for people with psychiatric illnesses. She has co-authored several peer-reviewed and technical publications on health promotion, evidence-based practices, and older adults living with mental illness.


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