An estimated six million adults age 65 and older struggle with depression, according to WebMD. Senior depression is especially prevalent among those who suffer from other medical conditions and disabilities.
Although common, depression isn’t a normal part of aging. If a senior loved one in your life is experiencing depression symptoms such as feeling sad or worthless, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or withdrawing from social activities, don’t just chalk it up to age.
Also, don’t wait for your aging parents to reach out for help. Most adults age 65 and older know very little about depression, according to a Mental Health America Survey. Perhaps that’s why older adults are more likely than any other age group to handle depression themselves, with less than half (42 percent) seeking professional help.
Fortunately, senior depression is a treatable illness. You can help your senior loved ones overcome their struggle with depression and get back to a happy, healthy life. Here’s how.
1. Encourage Social Media
If your parents enjoy browsing family photos or catching up with friends on Facebook or Instagram, help them stay connected through social media. Studies show that social media usage can reduce depression—especially in older adults experiencing pain.
If social media is new to your parents, help them engage. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that more than half (57 percent) of people born from 1945-1964 and 23 percent of those born before 1945 use social media.
2. Try Tai Chi
The ancient martial art of Tai Chi is another way to prevent senior depression. When seniors participate in a Tai Chi class, they not only gain an opportunity to socialize with others, but they also learn agility, slow movement, and how to coordinate their body and mind.
As seniors build core strength, confidence, and balance, they also end up increasing their flexibility, easing their pain, and getting a better night’s sleep.
3. Understand the Difference Between Grief and Depression
While grief and depression share many common symptoms, they’re not the same. According to Healthline, depression is a constant feeling of sadness which is believed to stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain, whereas grief is caused by the death of a loved one.
Consider whether your aging parent has recently experienced a significant loss or life change. If your loved one is experiencing more persistent and unrelenting pain, he or she might be facing senior depression.
4. Define a Purpose
To rise above depression and overcome it for good, older adults need a purpose for their life. A purpose can be anything that sparks joy—from painting to gardening to simply interacting with others. Talk to your senior loved ones about what makes them excited to get out of bed in the morning. Look for ways to incorporate more of these activities into their daily life.
5. Provide Plenty of Choices
Many seniors feel depressed when they lose their independence or mobility. You can help them boost their mood simply by giving them more control over their daily choices. For example, ask them what brand of coffee or toothpaste they prefer. Let them choose which crossword or Sudoku to complete first. Even though it may seem that they’re not in control of their life, show your aging parents all the possibilities at their fingertips.
6. Seek Out New Friends
Striking up new friendships is an effective way to fend off senior depression. Since losing family members and friends is part of life, it’s important to make an effort to meet new people. Seniors with strong social networks are more resilient and end up living happier, more fulfilling lives.
If your aging parent is having a difficult time connecting with others, offer a helping hand. Consider visiting a local coffee shop or restaurant regularly and see if you notice other regulars. Or, help your senior loved one explore local bowling leagues or groups at their assisted living center.
Don’t Let Depression Keep Your Senior Loved Ones Down
Depression can be a debilitating illness, but it doesn’t have to diminish your loved one’s quality of life. Consider the tips above to help your aging parent cope with depression. You can also explore a range of senior health articles from Senior Care Center.