Depression in Older Adults – Symptoms, Risks, & How to Get Help


Five Star- FL

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Posted on

Aug 26, 2023


Florida - Southwest

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Having a bad day or feeling down once in a while is a normal part of life, but having these same feelings day in and day out is usually a sign of something worse—depression. In older adults, depression is not just having “the blues” or being upset at the loss of a loved one. It’s a very real, but treatable, medical condition.

Senior depression is not a normal part of aging, but older adults are at higher risk for experiencing depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, depression in seniors can often be misdiagnosed due to healthcare providers mistaking depression symptoms as a natural reaction to illness or other life changes.

While seniors are at higher risk for depression, the vast majority of seniors are not depressed. Additionally most seniors see improvements in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, therapy, or both.

Here are some tips to recognize depression in older adults and how to get help:

Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults

It isn’t always easy to recognize the signs of depression in older adults— you may notice a plate of empty food or a loss of interest in hobbies that were once pleasurable. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of depression is prolonged feelings of sadness or anxiety that can last for weeks. Older adults with depression may also be experiencing:

  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, or pessimism
  • A lack or loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
  • Decreased energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts

Common Causes of Depression in the Elderly

The exact causes of senior depression are unknown, but experts believe it may be caused by a combination of factors in a person’s life. While it’s important to know the symptoms of depression in older adults, it’s just as important to know what can put someone at risk for experiencing depression. Each person is different, but here is a list of potential factors that can contribute to depression in older adults:


As adults age, their worlds can feel increasingly isolating. Partners and loved ones can pass away; neighbors, friends, and family may move; and the ability to physically leave home may become more difficult.

Medical issues

Older adults may struggle after a medical procedure or illness. A surgery that doesn’t allow a person to be as active as they once were or an illness like cancer, stroke, or chronic can contribute to feelings of helplessness.

Traumatic or stressful events

Major traumatic events in a person’s life can happen when they’re least expecting it. Seniors can be victims of abuse, experience the death of a loved one, or have financial problems that can all affect their mental state.

Using alcohol or drugs

Certain medications can cause changes in a person’s behavior and mentality. It’s always best to talk to your doctor about how your medications are affecting you or a loved one. Alcohol consumption can also lead to similar emotional changes.

How to Help Seniors with Depression

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help and support seniors with depression. If you are concerned about a loved one who may be experiencing depression here is a list of ways you can support them:

Talk it out

Communication is key. Having a one-on-one conversation with a loved one is one of the best ways to know what’s going on with them. Sometimes just venting can help an older adult, other times you may find they need help, but are struggling to ask for it. Either way take some time to discuss what is happening in their life.

Frequent check-ins

Moving to a senior living community is a major change for an older adult. One way to make them feel more at home is by making frequent visits or phone calls. Set up a schedule and carve out time to let your family member know you’re there for them. Simple questions like “how are you doing?” and “what did you do today?” can go a long way.

Schedule activities

If you’re able to visit in-person, spend time playing games, going for walks, or venturing out into the local town. Set up an activity like going to a museum, a new restaurant, or seeing other friends and family to give the older adult in your life an event to look forward to.

Accompany them to see a health care provider

Approach this subject delicately, as your family member may be hesitant to seek help. By offering to join an older adult to an appointment, you can show that they’re not alone no matter what they’re going through. This can also be an important step for your loved one to be diagnosed and, if needed, treated.

Moving to a senior living community can also have numerous benefits for an older adult with depression. Communities like Five Star offer a welcoming atmosphere that brings older adults together to make new connections and stay active with a suite of programs and activities.

AlerisLife and Five Star communities believe a person’s quality of life is ageless. At Five Star communities, we offer a wide range of senior living options built with a high level of service and sense of community. Contact us to find a senior living community near you.

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Understanding Aging and Depression

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Beating the Summertime Blues

Sometimes I wonder what Im a-gonna to doCause there aint no cure for the summertime blues.In 1959, Eddie Cochran penned and performed this catchy song. Little did he likely realize he had coined a phrase describing a real mental/emotional issue. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this form of depression is usually associated with winter, but approximately 10-30% of people are affected during warmer months the summertime blues.It is uncertain as to why this seasonal reversal happens, but there could be several contributing factors such as:abrupt schedule changes with less structureuncomfortable heat/humidityabsence of friends and family due to vacationschanges in brain chemistrycultural pressure to feel light-hearted and happynegative body image issues due to more skin exposure or bathing suit requirementssleep pattern disruption from longer days and shorter nightsNo matter the exact reasons, feelings of sadness in the summer do happen. Consider these helpful tips towards addressing and combatting them:Establish a summer routine as best you can. Accept that it may undergo additional changes, and that is OK.Incorporate exercise in your day, even if it is gentle, like stretching or chair movement.Get enough sleep. If possible, keep the same bedtime schedule. Allow yourself time to wind down, even if it is light outside, or consider using a sleep mask. You also can try earplugs if your neighborhood is noisy or other family members are still up and active.Stay hydrated. Water is often overlooked as a factor of fatigue and negative emotions. Try keeping a glass by the sink or a water bottle in the car or carry one with you while going about your day.Choose healthy foods that will nourish and feel good in your body.Keep a tab on how much you are isolated. Try to engage in activities with others some specific suggestions below!* Protect yourself from heat and glare with sunglasses, hats and lightweight clothing.* Be kind to yourself. Identify your triggers and reflect on ways to overcome them.* Show yourself compassion and give yourself space to adapt, process and grow.At Kavod Senior Life, we provide opportunities for both community members and residents alike to stay engaged and protect from depression, SAD or otherwise. These include gathering for healthy meals (once a day in Senior Living, three times a day in Assisted Living), or participating in activities, outdoor gardening, and spiritual programs including mindfulness and coffee chats with our chaplain. Residents can also talk to our staffed Care Coordinators (like social workers) to get additional help and connect with resources. We also have supportive health and wellness classes and services such as yoga, dancing and more. If you are struggling with SAD and are local to Denver, we welcome you to Kavod to participate with us and keep yourself emotionally healthy. We hope this information and our resources will help you have an enjoyable, positive summer and chase away those troublesome blues. For more information, please call 303-399-1146.