Depression affects people of all ages, and while many of those who suffer from it are those in their advanced years, the fact is that depression is not a natural part of aging. While it is normal for everyone, seniors included, to feel periods of sadness or to have a “case of the blues” from time to time, especially considering the life changes aging brings such as changes to health, the passing of friends and family, and distance from adult children who may have moved a great distance away, it should not be a persistent feeling that impacts their quality of life and mood over long periods in a negative way.
The fact of the matter is that depression is very much a treatable medical condition. One of the most recognizable signs of suffering from depression is prolonged feelings of profound sadness or hopelessness. Seniors, however, may experience a multitude of other symptoms that can make recognizing their issue as depression more difficult. Symptoms such as:
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, or a lack of enthusiasm for events and things they used to love. This is known as anhedonia.
- Changes in sleep habits, either sleeping too little or suffering from insomnia, or increased tiredness and excessive sleeping. Since many seniors tend to rise early and take naps throughout the day, this can be difficult to see for what it is.
- Changes in appetite, either eating very little or eating too much. This is another symptom that can be difficult to recognize, as many senior citizens tend to experience diminished appetites as a normal part of the aging process.
- Aches or pains unrelated to other medical conditions.
- Irritability or persistent negative, sour moods.
- Difficulty concentrating or staying engaged in tasks or interactions.
Any older adult who feels a change in their normal behavior, or caregivers who notice a radical shift in the actions and demeanor of an elderly person in their care should talk to a doctor about any of the changes in their overall well-being or things that seem out of the ordinary. While many seniors are reluctant to share details of how they feel due to being worried about being a burden, it is important to be open and honest so they can get the help they need to feel their best each day and ensure they continue to enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
Seniors can be proactive about their mental health in many ways. Loneliness and isolation are two major factors that contribute to depression, especially for seniors aging in place. By taking protective steps, seniors can boost their mood and build connections.
- Pursuing hobbies. By exploring different activities and groups, either independently or through groups, one can carve out time to engage in mood lifting hobbies, as well as meet like minded friends and build a social circle.
- Community involvement. Volunteering is a great way to both stay connected and to gain a sense of enrichment from making a difference. For seniors who lack grandkids or the opportunity to spend time with them, it’s also a great way to impart wisdom and life experience on the upcoming generation.