Health Live @ Seniors Today with Tanuja Babre & Madhuri Tambe

Dealing with Emotional and Psychological Distress for Senior Citizens

On August 14, 2021, Seniors Today’s hosted yet another interesting and informative Health Live Webinar on Dealing with Emotional and Psychological Distress for Senior Citizens with Ms Tanuja Babre and Ms Madhuri Tambe from iCall, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Ms Tanuja Babre holds a masters in counselling psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She has been working in the area of mental health, psychosocial well-being and technology assisted counselling. Since 2017, she has been serving as the Programme Coordinator of iCALL. She also acts as a visiting faculty in TISS & Institutes across Mumbai for courses related to counselling, technology assisted counselling and community mental health. In her work with iCALL, she has been a Co-principal Investigator for research studies, authored and published multiple academic papers, articles, knowledge content, training manuals and research reports.

Ms Madhuri Tambe is a Counselling Psychologist by training from University of Mumbai. She has an in depth experience of working with institutions for children from unprivileged backgrounds. She has also worked with the helpline in the capacity of counsellor with iCALL, national level psychosocial helpline. From 2017, she is serving as a Programme Officer at iCALL.

A little about iCall.  iCall is a field action project of the School of Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. iCALL is a national level technology-assisted helpline service providing counselling, support, information, and referrals to individuals in emotional and psychological distress across the entire  lifespan, over the telephone and email. The service is run entirely by trained professionals and it offers a multilingual, anonymous, confidential, and safe professional space. The helpline caters to multiple issues such as relationship issues, self-image issues, grief, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, violence against women, addiction, work-life concerns etc. The services are available from Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 8 pm. Currently services are available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati.

There has been an increase in the number of mental health and psychosocial distress related concerns coming in through telephone, email and chat messages as well during the pandemic. Of course, during the pandemic, the nature of distress has also changed. Previously they were related to other life events that people were experiencing. During the pandemic it has become a lot more in the area of grief, loss of life, in the area of changes caused by migration, separation, anxiety, mental health concerns due to the lockdown itself. The need for such sessions and engagement on mental health related topics has been significantly higher than ever before.


Factors that impact the psychosocial aspect:
  • The kind of social circle and support  you have, the kind of relationships you’re in and the sort of relationship you have with your significant others. This includes our loved ones, relatives, spouse, children, colleagues.
  • The kind of social connections you share with the people around you.


Psychosocial health encompasses
  • Physical well being- how am I feeling? Am I eating and sleeping well? Are all my needs getting fulfilled?
  • Psychological well being- how am I enjoying my life? Am I well connected with my significant others?
  • Emotional well being- how am I feeling and do I fully understand what emotions I am going through?
  • Social well being- how are my relations with my significant others? How well am I connected to my friends, family and relatives?
  • Spiritual dimension- do I feel connected with the spiritual aspects? When we talk about spiritual aspects, we are not just talking about one’s religious beliefs but also whether or not you’re feeling connected to nature, to the supreme power that guides us.


Psychological well being does not mean that one has to always be happy. Individuals who are keeping well psychologically do experience unpleasant emotions and distress but they also understand their emotions, the situation and the reaction to it. They will acknowledge their distress and find contentment in the situation in hand.

Some of the psychosocial concerns that come up and are seen more commonly in  serious citizens:

  • Retirement is a concern for most. Many people plan their retirement while they are still working. You plan how you want to enjoy your life, the places you want to visit and explore and how you will be able to give more time to yourself, your spouse and family. However, when this sudden shift in role occurs, despite all the planning, it can be difficult for us to understand and navigate through it. Retirement also brings along with it financial crunches.

In the lives of home makers, retirement can be when the daughter in law takes charge of the household chores.


The nature and role of responsibilities change.

  • Health issues
  • Cognitive related functioning may deteriorate. This includes learning capacity, problem solving skills.
  • Change in the quality of life and lifestyle which might not be the same as you had imagined it would be like.


All these changes might affect our self worth and these changes can be distressing.

During these times, it has been noted that relationship with the spouse and their support helps, since both the partners are going through the same/ similar shift/ changes. However, the distress might get intensified if there is an experience of the death of their partner.


Ways to respond to covid related stress:

  • Remember, emotional distress is very normal. Do not judge yourself or your loved ones who are under distress. Whenever there is a stressful situation that seems like a threat to us, we are bound to have an emotional reaction to it. We are bound to feel unhappy, anxious, nervous. Instead of trying to avoid and suppress these emotions, look for ways to accept them.


  • Whenever you receive any information, connect with a reliable source and find out if it is true or not. And try to establish whether the information is authentic and true or not.


  • Stay connected with your loved ones. Talk to them about your situations and your feelings. Try to have regular conversations.


  • Write down your emotions or thoughts.


  • Stay healthy and keep yourself in good shape and practice healthy habits.


Whatever fears you may have about getting the vaccine or not- speak to a trusted medical professional. They will not only be able to guide you best, they will also clarify all your doubts and since they are someone you trust, you will be able to make a better and well informed decision and it will also put your mind to ease.


Certain signs that you might encounter if you are suffering from distress:

  • Physical signs- loss of sleep and appetite and disturbances. It can also present as pain or generalised body weakness.
  • You might feel confused, angry or irritated at times.
  • Your problem solving abilities might deteriorate
  • You might not enjoy your life including the sexual aspect of it.

A simple acronym HALT can help you with recognising your signs. If you are





You are either feeling one or more, there is something you need to do about it and change in your environment.

About Dr Noor Gill

Dr Noor Gill, MBBS, deciphers the space between heartbeats, figuratively and literally. Powered by frequent long naps and caffeine, she believes that “knowledge without giving back to society is meaningless” and works to make caring cool again.

View all posts by Dr Noor Gill

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