senior citizen helping hand

Algarvians over 65 in mental health program: In the municipalities of Faro, Loulé and Olhão, a project dedicated to mental health promotes the well-being and quality of life of people over 65.

The plan is tailored to each individual, based on a wide range of activities – from cognitive stimulation to adapted yoga or sessions on self-care. The psychologist in charge and two participants, aged 78 and 80, share with Expresso how the program has made a difference to their daily lives

At 78, Dora Faria assures us that “age doesn’t matter these days”. “What matters is how we feel, with peace, with love, helping a neighbor, giving a hand to a brother who needs it,” she says with certainty. All of this gives her the 360º Algarve Mental Health, in which she has been participating since the project began in September last year, and which will continue until at least February next year.

Dedicated to “promoting the well-being, quality of life and mental health of the elderly”, the project promoted by the Plataforma Saúde em Diálogo (Health in Dialogue Platform) was born in a region marked by a “very delicate situation” due to the “exodus of health professionals, particularly those working in the area of mental health”, which translates into “clearly insufficient responses”, explains psychologist and manager Ricardo Valente Santos to Expresso.

The program – which is aimed at the over-65s, especially those with low levels of education and poor socioeconomic status – has a “particular focus on preventing depression, suicide and monitoring dementia”. After an initial diagnostic assessment, according to “not only the needs but also the wishes of the person”, an “action plan” is drawn up, inspired by the social prescription model, which “meets what the person wants to do”.

Dora particularly enjoys the sessions focused on promoting self-care and socio-emotional skills, in which emotional management tools are shared. On the day she spoke to Expresso, the topic was suffering. “Many people suffer without needing to. Something happens, what do we do? We solve it in the best way, that’s what Ricardo explained,” she says.

The range of activities on offer – which take place weekly or fortnightly in the municipalities of Faro, Loulé and Olhão free of charge – also includes adapted physical activity, nutrition sessions and workshops, adapted yoga, psychology consultations and cognitive stimulation sessions.

“Even though I’m 80, a person is always learning. And I’ve already learned a lot in this project,” says José Santana, for whom cognitive stimulation has been “extremely important” in the two months since he joined the program. “I’ve already changed a lot in my life,” he adds. “It’s not just the physical part, the mental part is also very important if we want to have longevity in our lives. People often don’t care.”

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