Beating Depression as We Age

By: Barbara Baird and Jessica Slavik, The Nord Center

 

Whether it’s gardening or spending time with your grandchildren, your retirement years can be your chance to do the things you truly love. But what if you find that you are losing interest in the things that you once enjoyed? What if basic functions like eating, sleeping or just making it through your day start to feel like “too much”?

Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. Many changes that occur as we age can lead to depression such as medical illnesses, the death of spouses or other loved ones, and retirement. The effects of depression can extend far beyond changes in mood. Depression can cause people to become less energetic, experience changes in sleep patterns, changes in their appetites, as well as a decline in physical health.

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression is one of the major causes of a decline in the health-related quality of life for senior citizens. Depression in seniors is often overlooked because the symptoms may look like other diseases such as arthritis or dementia. As a senior, taking a proactive approach to your mental health can make the difference between aging, and aging well. The following strategies can help:

  • Keep Moving – Physical exercise is important to everyone’s health! Go for a walk or join a tai chi class. If you have physical limitations, try a chair workout.
  • Socialize – Stay connected with family and friends. You should also make an effort to meet new people – try joining a book club, taking a class, or volunteering. Dedicating quality time to social activities each week can reduce the likelihood of depression and generate a support group for when times get tough.
  • Use the Internet – If friends and family live too far away, the internet is a great way to keep in touch. A recent study shows that internet use among seniors can reduce the probability of depression by more than 30 percent! Being able to stay connected with loved ones and old friends helps fight off feelings of seclusion and promotes greater social interaction, even when it can’t be in person.
  • Get a Pet – Pets are great therapy option and research has proved taking care of a pet lowers agitation and depression. Pets also help seniors stay active and socially involved.
  • Play Games – Puzzles, crosswords, and games like Sudoku keep the brain stimulated. Cards are also a great way to get friends together.
  • Make Deeper Spiritual Connection– Religion and the community within can offer meaningful activities and support or a great place to volunteer.
  • Make a Difference– Volunteering is a great way to stay active and involved within your community. Finding a way to “do good” helps create a sense of purpose in life and also provides another opportunity to socialize.

There is great help available and many active ways to manage depression and to lift its cloud from your golden years. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to make a treatment plan.