Background: Suicide rates are highest among the elderly, yet research on suicide prevention in old age remains a much-neglected area.
Aims: We carried out a systematic review to examine the results of interventions aimed at suicidal elderly persons and to identify successful strategies and areas needing further exploration.
Methods: Searches through various electronic databases yielded 19 studies with an empirical evaluation of a suicide prevention or intervention program designed especially for adults aged 60 years and older.
Results: Most studies were centered on the reduction of risk factors (depression screening and treatment, and decreasing isolation), but when gender was considered, programs were mostly efficient for women. The empirical evaluations of programs attending to the needs of high-risk older adults seemed positive; most studies showed a reduction in the level of suicidal ideation of patients or in the suicide rate of the participating communities. However, not all studies used measures of suicidality to evaluate the outcome of the intervention, and rarely did they aim at improving protective factors.
Conclusions: Innovative strategies should improve resilience and positive aging, engage family and community gatekeepers, use telecommunications to reach vulnerable older adult, and evaluate the effects of means restriction and physicians education on elderly suicide.