Understanding Depression and the Senior Population

Posted on October 01, 2019

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According to the World Health Organization, depression is a widespread problem affecting over 300 million individuals worldwide. However, of these 300 million, less than half are seeking treatment. 

Many older adults dealing with depression may fail to recognize the symptoms, or don’t take the necessary steps to seek treatment. Silver Comet Village would like to provide you with an understanding of depression and its impact on the senior population, so you can better recognize and care for your loved one(s).

Types of Depression 

The stigma associated with depression, amongst the senior population or any demographic, views a person dealing with depression as having “a pervasively sad or flat affect.” The truth is that depression can hide inside the strongest and most positive of people. Symptoms are far more encompassing than sadness.

With that in mind, there are several types of depression, but two of the most common forms of depression in seniors are Major Depressive Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Type: Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder (clinical depression) is the most common form of depression, in seniors or otherwise. The characterization of a persistent depressive episode is that it prevents an individual from leading a healthy, happy life. A person diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder will find themselves trapped in a depressive state of mind for the majority of their day. This form comes with serious and concerning symptoms that can worsen if untreated:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Impaired concentration
  • Decreased or an altogether lack of interest in hobbies or activities they were once passionate about

Type: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder describes a type of depression brought on by the changing of seasons. During a seasonal shift, such as from Summer to Fall, the days are shorter, sunlight is less often, and outdoor activities are shuttled off due to the cooling temperatures and less accommodating weather. This form of depression can cause the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Drastic changes in sleep schedule such as oversleeping or insomnia
  • Social isolation
  • General discontent
  • Changes in appetite

Is Depression a Normal Part of Aging? No!

While depression in seniors is a growing concern, many are wondering if it is a natural part of aging. The answer is that while depression is common, it is not a normal part of aging. It can be normal to experience one or two symptoms of depression from time to time, but diagnosed depression is not linked to a particular stage of life. A few reasons why depression in seniors is so often overlooked:

  • The assumption that depression is just part of aging
  • Older adults may find themselves isolated (living alone, smaller circle of friends and family) with fewer people to notice changes in behavior or overall mood, alternatively, social isolation can increase the likelihood of developing depression 
  • Physical complaints or ailments being experience are attributed to depression, not just aging
  • Older adults may be reluctant to talk about their feelings or ask for help

If you believe a friend or loved one may be dealing with depression, it’s important that they know they are not alone. Let them know that you are there for them and that treatment options are available.

The mission of Silver Comet Village is to honor the past, celebrate the present, and embrace the future. If you are looking for additional resources on aging or the senior population, we encourage you to visit our website and view our family and caregiver resources.