Tele-behavioral health company Talkiatry is rolling out a new offering catered to the needs of the senior population.
While the company has always treated patients five and older, this new program is designed to cater to some of the unique challenges of individuals over 65.
It includes an extended initial appointment time from 60 to 75 minutes to help with onboarding and establishing rapport. It also includes performing cognitive and functional assessments.
“When it comes to our population, we know there’s a mental health crisis with kids, but there’s also a mental health crisis in lots of different populations,” Georgia Gaveras, chief medical officer and cofounder of Talkiatry, told Behavioral Health Business. “I think that when it comes to the elderly, we don’t focus enough on their mental health issues.”
New York-based Talkiatry was founded in 2019 and provides digital access to behavioral health clinicians, including psychiatrists. In 2022, the company landed $37 million in funding to scale its platform.
The senior population is growing rapidly in the U.S. By the year 2050, the number of Americans over 65 is projected to reach 82 million, making up roughly 23% of the population, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
Many seniors are dealing with significant life changes, such as retirement. Additionally, many over the age of 65 have comorbid health conditions, as well as behavioral health challenges.
Gaveras noted that Talkiatry has specific clinicians trained in geriatric psychiatry and others in psychosomatic medicine, a type of psychiatry focused on individuals with comorbid medical and behavioral health needs.
The program also includes patient care coordinators to navigate technical challenges and help patients get online for appointments. Still, Gaveras said that most seniors have adopted technology and are ready for telehealth.
“Brad Pitt turned 60 this year. He can use a cell phone,” Gaveras said. “This generation is …not naive. …We have this misconception that people may be too old to use this, but I think that’s absurd.”
Digital therapy could be a good option for people with difficulty physically getting to appointments.
“I live in New York City, and even New York City, it’s hard when someone is in a wheelchair [to get to appointments],” Gaveras said, “especially if you’re worried about them slipping and falling on the ice. Being able to do some [appointments] from the computer is a godsend.”