Men Beyond 50 is a programme run by the Conscious Ageing Trust.
It’s mission is to help older men avoid mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness by creating opportunities for older men to get together to share, learn and grow.
We aim to help older men from all walks of life to experience positive changes in their lives.
What aspects of men’s mental health do we address?
Of the many mental health illnesses that may affect men, Men Beyond 50 focuses on the mental health issues at the “lighter” end of the spectrum. Our aim is predominantly to help older men stay in good mental health rather than to treat clinical disorders once they’re in full flight – there are other mental health charities in the UK that deal with the severe end of the spectrum.
Our focus is on:
- preventing mental health issues from developing; and
- alleviating mild mental health issues before they become more severe.
What factors influence older men’s mental health?
There are three types of factors that can negatively impact the mental health of older men. Two factors are specific to the individual:
- Genetic predisposition
- Individual life circumstances and experiences.
The third factor is:
- Social conditioning – “norms” of behaviour and paradigms of thought. These socially imposed expectations and taboos act as a straight jacket that can lead some older men to feel powerless, alone and depressed.
In addition to helping older men cope with their personal life experiences, Men Beyond 50 also seeks to positively change the social conditioning factors.
- We seek to loosen the straight jacket by stimulating public discussion and promoting positive social change.
- We seek to free older men to talk more openly about their feelings, fears and their mental health.
- We seek to change the negative stereotypes of older men that much of society believes to be true.
- We seek to help older men see themselves as still having a valuable role in society – that they’re not “past their use by date” and that they can still contribute something useful to society.
How do we help older men with their mental health?
As a “Get People Talking” charity we employ several layers of strategies for Men Beyond 50 uses to achieve it’s goal of improving the mental health of older men:
‘Get People Talking’ groups of older men
One of the core strategies is to establish devolved and self sustaining groups (“collaborative communities”) of older men who meet regularly to talk, share, listen, laugh, and learn from each other, and act as a hub for growing other community initiatives for older men. This will improve men’s mental health in three ways:
- Directly as a result of the improved life skills learnt through the topics discussed, naming and owning mental health issues, modelling different ways of dealing with problems, and making changes in behaviour and intended behaviour
- Indirectly as a result of decreased isolation and loneliness, increasing the sense of belonging and sense of being appreciated that comes from acquiring a new group of male friends (and not just friends that talk about the football), but friends meeting in a safe and contained space that trust each other enough to open up and talk about things of deeper importance.)
- Growing social contacts, and outreach getting to ‘hard to reach’, vulnerable, disadvantaged, and at risk groups of older men, mobilising the care, compassion, and energy of individuals in the men’s groups.
The charity has developed a proven and sustainable ‘social franchise model’ for setting up and running ongoing ‘Get People Talking’ groups. These meet regularly, both supporting and helping individuals, and acting as a hub for growing grass-root community initiatives. The role of the charity in Men Beyond 50 is to establish these groups in local communities settings, providing the expertise to help and support the set up, recruitment and training that will teach local men the skills they need to continue to take over and run these mental health focused groups themselves.
As we are a charity, the groups and training programs are provided free to the participants so that even pensioners on very tight budgets can afford to attend.
Men Beyond 50 Storytelling events and workshops
The charity also helps Men Beyond 50 put on free storytelling events where older men are encouraged to talk about issues such as older men’s health, relationships, or work and retirement. Events and workshops usually incorporate some interactive performance or theatrical component and aim to have some direct therapeutic benefits as an outcome.
The events and workshops are open to friends and family of the older men and thus they help to educate a wider audience about older men’s issues. The events are often recorded so that podcasts and videos can reach a wider audience.
A major aim of the charity is to reach disadvantaged, vulnerable, carers and at risk groups. As well as being educational and entertaining, these events and workshops are also promotional vehicles for getting into diverse communities, and for the ‘Get People Talking’ men’s groups that the charity runs.
Partnering with Mental Health Service providers
Using the positive Men Beyond 50 approach, the charity partners with health service providers and organisations on projects and initiatives to change individual behaviour and intended behaviour, to reduce avoidable mental illness in older men, and improve detection, as well as improve health and quality of life wellbeing.
Campaigning to Change Public Attitudes and Awareness on Ageing, Death and Dying
The charity focuses on specific men’s mental health and related issues, where possible partnering with national service providers and agencies to help change public attitudes and awareness, and particularly to challenge health and social inequalities, championing disadvantaged, vulnerable, carer and at risk groups. Campaign issues currently include: hidden mental health issues around death and dying (alcohol/substance abuse and depression), Suicide among older older men), and the negative impact of poverty on the mental health and wellbeing of older men.
Creating an inclusive and positive Men Beyond 50 voice
The charity’s Men Beyond 50 project is growing a community of people listening, sharing stories and talking about the issues that matter for older men, and creating a hub for older men mobilising their care, compassion and energy. With our ‘jumping man’ we do positive, humorous, and upbeat!
The Men Beyond 50 website is the place for older men to tell their stories, raise their issues and concerns, and to build a growing resource that aims to provide older men with useful information and thought provoking articles and discussion about a wide variety of issues related to older men and mental health.
Online advertising and publicity
Men Beyond 50 promotes its events and its website via social media. These advertisements reach a large audience and usually carry a humorous message such as “Old enough to know better!”. So even if people don’t engage with our events or website they are at least exposed to the idea that a positive message is being put out about older men mental health and issues.
Online Facebook discussion group (Facebook)
Men Beyond 50 has a Facebook group where everything to do with being older men can be discussed, and information shared. Partners including wives are also welcome participants! We have also enlisted the assistance of similar organisations from around the world to help us promote and manage the group. Have a look!
Men’s Mental Health Statistics
Fear of Ageing
The “Later Life Omnibus Survey Jan 2013” by Age UK found that 72% of men and women aged over 65 are afraid of ageing, but that the percentage of men who are afraid of ageing is higher than the percentage of women.
Fear and anxiety about ageing and dying is one of the mental health issues that our charity is focused on reducing.
Depression, Suicide, and Mental Illness under-diagnosed in Older Men
- According to health service data (NICE. 2003) 10% of men suffer from depression, however there’s growing evidence that the percentage is much higher and that male reluctance to talk about mental health issues results in much depression being missed.
- Alcohol (and substance) abuse can mask a depression illness, and drinking is much higher in men than women. Among older people frequent drinking is more common, and 26% of men aged between 45 and 64 are heavy drinkers (ONS Drinking Habits Amongst Adults, 2012). This would suggest that there are a lot of older men with undiagnosed mental health issues.
- Men in the UK are three times more likely to die by suicide than women are. Since 2000 the peak suicide rates have been in men in their mid-years, and there is a separate rise in suicide rates of men over 75 (Department of Health, 2011; General Register Office for Scotland, 2012; Tomlinson, 2012).
Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Men
Seventy five percent of people aged over 75 who are living alone report feeling lonely, and the proportion is higher among men (RVS, Loneliness Among Older People. 2012). The link between loneliness and physical and mental health is difficult to prove, but it appears there is an association with depression:
- Fewer men seek help for loneliness issues
- While 18% of people aged over 75 do some form of charitable volunteering once a month, proportionally fewer of these are men. (Mental Health Foundation, The Lonely Society. 2010)
”The Taboo on Tenderness”: Men, Age and Gender Equal Society
For older men in the UK today there is a large gap between the current realities of life and previous ‘being a man’ ways:
- social invisibility and disconnectedness
- outmoded masculinity mind-sets – ‘the taboo on tenderness’ – and ‘grumpy old men’ stereotypes
- systematic socio-economic inequalities
- mid-life relationship breakdown
- decline in health and fitness
- end of work opportunities.
These factors form a complex mix with when combined with any adverse individual personality traits. Research is complex to do, but the persistent high numbers of suicides among midlife and older men points to the urgency of facing the issues. (Samaritans report, Men, Suicide and Society. 2012)
Please Donate, Join In, Take Part
Please consider regular giving and perhaps you’d even like to support a group or sponsor an event in your local area, or an advertising campaign? We appreciate every penny we receive, and all ideas for new activities!
Explore Men Beyond 50 website, and if you are inspired and like our positive approach to talking about ageing, death and dying, please join in – send us your stories, engage in the conversations, attend our events, and together we can bring death and dying alive and help bring about change.
Please volunteer your time to help support our Men’s Mental Health charitable objectives. Frankly we struggle to do all we want to, and we welcome all offers of help (from trustee to volunteer), especially if you have skills and experience to offer.
Contact us: If you’d like to set up a ‘Get People Talking’ Group, or want to suggest or sponsor a Men Beyond 50 event in your community, have your story to share, ideas for a campaign or issue feature, want to get more involved, or simply to talk over any aspect of the charity’s men’s mental health work.