Depression in older adults

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It can happen to anyone, at any age of life. Similarly, physical illness, loss and the challenges of ageing don’t have to keep you down. You can feel better and enjoy your golden years once again, no matter what challenges you face.

Symptoms of depression in older adults are:

  • Sadness or feelings of despair
  • Unexplained pains or aches
  • Loss of interest in socialising
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Slowed movement and speech
  • Increased use of alcohol
  • Memory problems
  • Neglecting personal care
  • Help for depressed seniors

The very nature of depression interferes with a person's ability to seek help, draining energy and self-esteem. For depressed seniors, raised in a time when mental illness was highly stigmatised and misunderstood, it can be even more difficult ‑ especially if they don’t believe depression is a real illness, are too ashamed to ask for assistance or fear of becoming a burden to their families.

If older adults are depressed, they may not want to do anything or see anybody. But isolation and disconnection only make depression worse. The more they engage socially, mentally, and physically the better they’ll feel.

Face-to-face connection: It’s better to make connection face to face with your elders rather than being busy in the world of digital communication.

Get out: Try not letting them stay at home for the whole day. Depression is less likely when people’s body and mind remain active.

Schedule regular social activities: Group outings, visits from friends and family members, or trips to the local senior or community centre can help combat isolation and loneliness. Be gently insistent if your plans are refused: depressed people often feel better when they’re around others.

Plan and prepare healthy meals: A poor diet can make depression worse, so make sure your loved one is eating right, with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and some protein at every meal.

Encourage the person to follow through their treatment: Depression usually recurs when treatment is stopped too soon, so help your loved ones and keep up with his or her treatment plan. If it isn’t helping, look into other medications and therapies.