As confirmed by the CDC, depression is not to be taken as a natural part and process of aging. While it’s true that depression is a prevalent problem among the older generations, age itself is only a risk factor and not an actual reason for senior depression. Several other factors come together to create a depressive situation for elders.
The reason behind a senior’s depression can be exclusively social, environmental, emotional, or medical, but in most cases, it is a combination of all three. A look through the factors in more detail can help family members identify and counter them with encouraging outcomes.
Sense of Loneliness
Loneliness may become inevitable past a certain age for seniors. They often find themselves living in an environment where they have no one to talk to or interact with in any satisfying manner. Those who do not have children will often find themselves left alone without anyone to visit them. Even if they have children and grandchildren, it is unlikely for them to be living in the same house.
Furthermore, it is not entirely uncommon to find elders complaining about how rarely their children visit them. If they do not have a partner, or if their partner passed away, this creates an even deeper social and emotional vacuum for their aging minds. Studies show that, after a while, the loneliness and depression actually turn into additional mental blocks which keep them from availing the few options of socializing that they may still have left.
Sense of Helplessness
Post the age of 50, most people tend to lose muscle mass and bone density at a rapid rate. Their cognitive functions may also begin to show signs of mild damage past the age of 55-60. Given how prevalent diseases such as Alzheimer’s are in older adults, it is not uncommon for them to also develop early symptoms of dementia soon after. In fact, social isolation and lack of communication are cited as confirmed accelerants for Alzheimer’s and general neurodegeneration.
Be it due to arthritis, dementia, or a combination of the two, it’s common for elders to feel helpless when they find themselves unable to properly carry out their daily chores, or even remember what they were. Depression, confusion, frustration, and anxiety are inevitable in such instances of helplessness. The Pathway to Living Alexian Village Assisted Living Community understands the essential need for care, attention, and assistance. A place like that can ensure that the residents never feel helpless and unassisted again.
Sense of Uselessness
Having a purpose is essential for maintaining human mental health, whether that purpose is completely private or something that has an effect on multiple people. The central idea is that the purpose behind one’s living has to feel satisfactory to the individual. Seniors will often find themselves lacking that purpose after retirement, especially after a partner’s death. A combination of grief, loneliness, and purposelessness is what gives rise to the feeling of uselessness.
If the elder is physically unable to participate in social activities, or take on a new job or hobby due to disease, the depression itself can become debilitating. It’s up to the people around the aging population to recognize the symptoms of elderly depression and do what they can to help them.