Depression is an unsettling condition that can influence every facet of your life in a challenging way. While it is not a natural part of aging, it is common among seniors. As older adults undergo a variety of major life changes, they become more susceptible to depression.
The good news is that depression, although it feels uncontrollable and burdensome, can be addressed and counteracted with the right measures. Additionally, there are activities and lifestyle choices you can adopt to cope with or prevent the risk of turning 60 and feeling depressed.
Symptoms of Depression in Seniors
Depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is different from feeling temporarily “down” or “blue.” Everyone has days that are tinged with sadness or loneliness. Depression, however, is a real illness that can cause severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, even seemingly mundane ones like sleeping, eating, and exercising, according to the National Institute on Aging.
There are different types of depressive disorders, but the ones that primarily affect older adults include:
- Major depression, which involves severe symptoms and manifests in occasional, sometimes frequent episodes
- Persistent depressive disorder, or a depressed mood that persists for at least two years
- Vascular depression, which is related to changes that occur in a person’s brain and body as they age, such as restricted blood flow to the body’s organs
Decreases in appetite and behavioral changes are common symptoms of depression, although the illness manifests itself differently depending on the individual. Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Difficulty sleeping, including oversleeping or early-morning awakening
- Persistent anxiety, sadness, or feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Difficult concentrating, recalling information, or making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide or fixation on death
- Frequent crying
- Neglecting personal care
If you experience one or more of these symptoms persistently, you may be developing a depressive disorder.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Aging in Place in 2020
Contributing Factors for Depression
While depression is not an inherent result of the aging process, certain transitions and challenges that take place later in your life can trigger the condition.
The death of a loved one, loss of independence, dealing with a serious illness, and/or leaving the workforce for retirement are major life changes. For many people, these circumstances cause temporary anxiety and sadness that dissipate after a period of adjustment. Other people are not able to regain emotional balance and develop depression.
According to the National Institute on Aging, other causes and risk factors that can contribute to depression in older adults include:
- Personal history
- Brain chemistry
Getting the Help You Deserve
There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed by depression, and it’s important to remember that even severe depression can be treated. If you believe you are dealing with the illness in any form, the first step is to accept this reality and seek the help you need and deserve.
Visit your doctor to help make sure the symptoms are not related to another disorder or the side effects of a medication you are taking. Additionally, speak with a mental health professional and sign up for senior counseling. Some therapists may recommend antidepressants. In less serious cases, alternative treatments such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are sufficient. Treatment choices differ depending on the person, and you may have to try multiple treatments to find the one that works for you.
If you are struggling with an impulse to harm yourself and need immediate help, call 911 or ask a friend or family member to take you to a hospital emergency room. You can also call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are dealing with an aging parent’s depression, you should also seek support. It can be challenging to watch a family member or loved one struggle with the symptoms of depression and to feel helpless and anxious.
Your continued love and support, however, are important for your parent experiencing a depressive disorder. Encouraging them to seek help, visiting them at their retirement community, and walking alongside them during treatment can make a critical difference.
Ways to Beat Depression as a Senior
You can help prevent the risk of depression or cope with the illness through several natural remedies and habits. Some of these include:
- Establishing and sticking to a healthy sleep schedule
- Taking up a new hobby or activity
- Staying physically active with low-impact exercises designed for seniors
- Consuming a nutritious diet that’s filled with fiber-rich food, including fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
It’s also important when coping with depression to not isolate yourself, as much as you may want to at times. You want to stay mentally active, as well.
If you are coping with depression in Seattle, you can find social activities that plug you into the community, connect you with other people, and give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Seattle and the surrounding area is filled with parks, restaurants, museums, retail establishments, and senior centers where you can recreate and socialize. Whether it’s taking a class or joining a club, volunteering with a local nonprofit, or simply having fun with like-minded individuals, these activities can enrich your life and help you feel engaged.
Consider an Independent Living Community
Within a Seattle retirement community, you will receive the care, support, and services that enable you to cope with depression, or better yet, stave it off. Between comfortable accommodations, beautiful grounds, daily dining services, a full program of activities, and numerous other amenities, independent living communities like Daystar Retirement Village are designed to give you a rich, full life in your older age.
“10 Ways to Help Seniors Deal With Isolation and Depression.” DailyCaring.com article. Accessed online at https://dailycaring.com/10-ways-to-help-seniors-deal-with-isolation-and-depression/
“Depression and Older Adults.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed online at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/depression-and-older-adults
“Depression in Older Adults: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment.” HelpGuide.org. Accessed online at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-in-older-adults.htm
“Depression in older adults.” Royal College of Psychiatrists. Accessed online at https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/depression-in-older-adults
“Elderly Depression.” A Place For Mom blog post. Accessed online at https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/elderly-depression
“Best senior activities in Seattle, WA.” Yelp.com. Accessed online at https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=senior+activities&find_loc=Seattle%2C+WA