Depression in the Elderly

Louis Barnes Avatar

Depression in the elderly is a very real thing. This particular age bracket can suffer from aspects of the condition too, and just like other sufferers, they may not be able to recognise it or indeed tell anyone about it. As the elderly age further, their lifestyles may dictate the amount of contact they have with other people, and the lack of contact with others can then become a care issue. This article will carefully look at aspects of depression in the elderly, and then discuss the key principles behind their care and support. Like any other person suffering from depression, and elderly person can cope with the symptoms if they are receiving an appropriate level of care.

Why is it missed?

There are many reasons why depression in the elderly is overlooked. This is no-one’s fault, but is instead symptomatic of the way elderly people feel generally about their overall health.  For example, so many elderly people overlook what is a clear sign of depression because they think that feeling down or ‘flat’ is a sign of ageing. Obviously, this is to a large degree quite dangerous.

Also, isolation that occurs due to the patient being elderly may lead to even more advanced depression. So the actual characteristic of an elderly lifestyle (being on your own more) can lead to a complication in what was really only a mild form of depression. The more isolated a person gets, the more chances that the mild depression can turn into more chronic forms.

The physical issues that an elderly person may experience, such as more sleep or a lack of it, or a lessening of appetite, may be put down to old age, when in fact they are clear signs of depression. The problem is that these symptoms are common in old age, where an elderly person may feel that they do not need to sleep as much, for example.

You may also be just plain reluctant as an elderly person to ask for help. Depression can linger for weeks and weeks, if not months, but the sheer fact that you may feel like you are just annoying the people around you may keep you, as an elderly person, from asking for help. This of course just further promotes the continuing cycle of trouble. This can lead to an elderly person who suffers from depression from entering a downward spiral into severe and physically limiting depression.


General illness and fatigue that comes with old age can be a main cause of depression in the elderly. Your body slows down, and you develop ‘wear and tear’. However, this does not mean that everyone can deal with this in a positive way. Some elderly people resent the fact that their bodies are becoming older and less reliable than they used to be. This resentment turns to negative feelings, which can of course develop into mild depression. This can worsen, and generally affect the overall health of the person. Surgery is a common part of old age, and the side effects or complications from that can also cause physical pain and aches, which again can lead to depression.

Fear of age and the fact that death will soon be approaching; can be a major cause of depression in the elderly. Dealing with your impending passing is something that can only really be done if you are of a positive outlook generally, and if your health is good. If you are feeling down or under the weather, you may, as an elderly person, start to think of your own mortality. This may cause you to see this as a frightening aspect of your age, and consequently cause depression.

One of the main causes of a slide into depression among the elderly is the death of a loved one. Often, couples do grow old together, but when one dies, it can affect the other in an incredibly negative way. This can have catastrophic consequences. Bereavement counseling often helps people who have suffered form a loss, but if you are elderly, you may not be able to take full advantage of such a service. This can mean that an elderly person may feel alone and in despair, and therefore be prone to depression.

What can sufferers do?

Get active. Many older sufferers of depression find that if they join an activity programme of any kind, there is a subsequent rise in their happiness levels and overall health. Even if they are not able to join a gym, they still find that walking up the stairs, for example, or spending some time in the garden, really helps.

Having a good support network helps too. There are plenty of schemes that offer this in local communities, as well as support form families.

Therapy can help too. Some emotional intelligence work and basic one-to-one therapy can help the elderly come to terms with their needs. All of tis can really help to lift the problem of depression.

Tagged in :

Louis Barnes Avatar