Dealing with Depression as a Senior Citizen

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Dealing with Depression as a Senior Citizen

The senior citizen population is a section of society which is often overlooked and under-served. Whether you are a senior citizen yourself or are a younger person looking to assist the elderly population, you may be surprised to learn that seniors are at an increasing risk for depression and other mental health conditions.

The National Institute of Health works to dispel the myth that depression is a normal side effect of aging. While the organization stresses that most older folks feel a sense of satisfaction with their lives, certain life-changing events like the death of a partner or the transition from working to retirement can be sufficiently disruptive to trigger feelings of depression and isolation.

It is important that seniors themselves and their loved ones are aware of the signs of depression. The Center for Disease Control lists the following as just some of the symptoms:

  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Disrupted sleep patterns including insomnia (such as waking up very early in the morning) or even sleeping too much
  • Aches and pains that persist even when treated
  • Thoughts of suicide

While depression can be a frightening condition to experience firsthand or as a family member of someone with depression, there are many tools that can be used to combat it. Being aware of the signs is the first step for addressing them. Older adults are often misdiagnosed, so it is important to discuss any concerns with your or your family member’s physician.

There are many steps that seniors experiencing depression and isolation can take to help relieve feelings of sadness and to be better connected to their communities.

  • Meals on Wheels – This organization has been serving seniors with nutritious meals for decades. While the food itself is of course beneficial for nourishing the body, many recipients of Meals on Wheels cite the volunteer connection as one of the best aspects of the program. Volunteers (often the same ones for long periods of time) hand-deliver meals to seniors daily. This contact with others can serve as a daily check-in with a senior as well provide an opportunity for conversation.
  • Senior Centers – Community centers often have an ample amount of programs to choose from. Check your local listings to find opportunities to interact with others while learning a new skill or re-visiting one from your past. There are activities such as board games, crocheting, and even senior yoga in most centers.
  • Retirement Homes – While some people balk at the idea of going to a retirement home, some people find that being surrounded by their peers can be very helpful for their emotional well-being. Even if you do not require medical care, retirement homes can offer a sense of community, especially to seniors who do not have family or friends close by. Retirements home can also help seniors to down-size and not have to worry about keeping up with a home that is too large for them to clean and repair.

Senior citizens are a valuable member of our society, and with more awareness about their risk for depression, we can all help to minimize its effects.

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