What You Need to Know About Aging and Depression

April 29, 2024

Depression is one of the most common disorders affecting many Americans at some point during their lifetime, and it doesn’t discriminate based on age or gender.

While aging isn’t a cause of depression, there are some facets of depression that are unique to older people, as well as some common misconceptions.

Understanding these specific aspects is important to ensure seniors get the treatment they need in a timely manner.

It isn’t normal

It’s common for the symptoms of depression in older people to be chalked up to getting older. This isn’t true and can hold you back from getting treatment.

Depression is more likely among younger adults than older. Recovery is likely when a diagnosis is made and the proper therapy is administered.

Acknowledging the problem

A diagnosis of depression doesn’t have the shame and negative connotation associated with it in the past.

Even though the stigma has lessened, some older people may be unwilling to admit they are suffering from symptoms because they are afraid they could be viewed as weak.

This reluctance to acknowledge symptoms makes it imperative for loved ones and caretakers to reassure their senior family member and let her know that she isn’t weak for needing help.

Depression mimics dementia

Sometimes loss of memory or other cognitive issues are automatically assumed to be signs of dementia when they affect an older person. Pseudodementia is when depression imitates dementia.

When a senior shows signs of either problem, it’s important that he be thoroughly evaluated by a physician, who can discern what’s truly going on.

Significance of medications

The medications that an older person takes can have important ramifications with regard to depression.

Typically, seniors take a number of prescription drugs. Some drugs or combinations of drugs have depression as a side effect. This is another important reason that older people who display symptoms of depression need to be assessed by their doctor.

The mind-body connection

It’s easy to focus on the mental aspects of depression and overlook the relationship between the mind and physical health.

The simple fact is that a senior who is depressed has a higher likelihood of developing physical ailments as well. A person at any age will have a weakened immune system due to their depression. This is especially dangerous for older people.

In addition, being depressed can cause someone to neglect taking care of themselves, which can worsen the situation.

Who’s vulnerable

No one is immune to depression, but those with increased risk have:

  • Been unmarried or widowed
  • No support system
  • A chronic medical problem
  • A problem with alcohol
  • A family history of depression or mood disorders
  • Financial issues
  • Been living in a nursing home or have home health care

Lowering the risk

Seniors can reduce the chances they will develop depression by maintaining a healthy diet, getting physical activity and spending time with other people. In addition, vitamin D supplements can help ward off depression.

How to navigate aging and depression

Depression is treatable if it is recognized and diagnosed.

Encourage seniors to share troubling feelings and seek the help of their physician if there are symptoms of depression or changes in their mood.

Checking out medications as a possible contributor and recognizing the similarities between dementia and depression can lead to an effective remedy.

Lowering the risk through a healthy lifestyle may make a big difference.

Contact UROne Benefits™ here or at 800-722-7331 to make sure you have health insurance that covers mental issues.

This post was originally published in January 2019; updated April 2024.