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Depression and Aging

 

Depression strikes over 6 million Americans age 65 and older each year; however, it is not a normal part of aging as people often (mistakenly) think.  You don’t have to accept depression for yourself or loved one as an inevitable part of getting older, and the good news is there are proven changes you can make to help.

Many different factors contribute to depression in the elderly, and unfortunately a lot of these factors are considered a normal part of aging.  Chronic health issues, a loss of mobility and independence, physical pain from conditions such as arthritis, use of medications over long periods of time—all can take a toll on a person both physically and mentally.  Depression is often overlooked in the elderly, so it is critical to look for common signs of the disease, such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns, an inability to concentrate, loss of energy, decreased social interaction, and feelings of sadness, helplessness or hopelessness.  Be aware that many of these symptoms also accompany other common diseases that strike as one ages, so be sure to raise any concerns with your doctor.

Once diagnosed, the treatment for depression is often successful.  Your doctor might prescribe a combination of group therapy, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and medication.  Simple, everyday changes can help you cope with depression.  Stay healthy by incorporating activities such as tai chi and yoga into your daily routine or consider volunteering or adopting a pet.  Most importantly, stay connected with your family and friends and share your feelings with them.

For more information on depression and the elderly, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet and Everyday Health’s Depression Resource Center.