According to the Orange County Council on Aging in their article "When Is It More Than Just The Blues?" approximately 15% to 20% of adults over the age of 65 have experienced depression. They based this estimate on a 2008 study done by the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation.
Among my personal friends, I know of several women who have complained that their husbands seem to be depressed now that they have stopped working. However, I also know of several women who seem depressed, as well.
Causes of Depression
According to the Council on Aging, depression is often triggered in a susceptible person when they experience a significant life change such as a major move, death of a spouse, or declining health. I have also noticed that it can be triggered when some people give up their careers or when their children grow up and leave home, especially if they move far away. Since there has also been a large increase in the number of divorces in couples over the age of 50 over the past decade, this could also be a trigger for many people.
While these are all legitimate reasons for people to feel depressed, it does NOT mean that we have to accept it as simply a normal part of aging.
Symptoms of Depression
What are some of the signs of depression in the elderly? Like people of other ages, they may seem sad, moody, angry or bitter. In the elderly, they may talk about having nothing left to live for or that they have lived too long. Other symptoms could include alcohol or prescription drug abuse, withdrawing from activities, poor diet, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, and a host of medical conditions.
Treatment for Depression
There is no reason why depression in the elderly should be considered a normal part of the aging process. There is no more reason why senior citizens should suffer from this debilitating condition than people of any other age. There are effective treatments including medication, exercise, and therapy.
In addition, simply encouraging the elderly to get out of the house, socialize and get exercise can make a tremendous difference in their state of mind. Volunteering is also an effective antidote to mild depression. Owning a pet can be effective in helping some people.
It is important that family members and physicians pay attention to the state of mind of senior citizens. The sooner a problem is identified, the easier it will be to treat.
"When Is It More Than Just The Blues?" Answers Guide, The Orange County Council on Aging, page 41.
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