What You Need to Know About Aging and Depression

January 23, 2019

Depression can happen to anyone, no matter their age, gender or any other distinction you can think of.


It’s one of the most common disorders, affecting many Americans at some point during their lifetime.

The number of people with undiagnosed depression is most likely far higher.

While aging isn’t a cause of depression, there are some facets of depression that are unique to older people, as well as some common misconceptions.

Understanding these specific aspects is important because the majority of seniors who are existing with depression haven’t received a diagnosis and therefore aren’t being treated.

It isn’t normal

It’s common for the symptoms of depression in older people to be chalked up to getting older.

This isn’t true and can hold you back from getting treatment.

The facts show that depression is more likely among younger adults than older. Recovery is likely when a diagnosis is made and the proper therapy is administered.

Denying the problem

A diagnosis of depression doesn’t have the shame and negative connotation associated with it that it did in the past.

Even though the stigma has lessened, some older people may be unwilling to admit they are suffering from symptoms because they are afraid they could be viewed as weak.

This reluctance to acknowledge symptoms makes it imperative for loved ones and caretakers to reassure their senior family member, and let her know that she isn’t weak for needing help.

Depression mimics dementia

Sometimes loss of memory or other cognitive issues are automatically assumed to be signs of dementia when they affect an older person. “Pseudodementia” is the term used when depression imitates dementia.

When a senior starts showing signs of either problem, it’s important that he be thoroughly evaluated by their physician, who can discern what’s truly going on.

Significance of medications

The medications that an older person takes can have important ramifications with regard to depression.

Typically, seniors take a number of prescription drugs. Some drugs or combinations of drugs have depression as a side-effect.

This is another important reason that older people who display symptoms of depression need to be assessed by their doctor.

There’s a mind-body connection

It’s easy to focus on the mental aspects of depression and overlook the relationship between the mind and physical health.

The simple fact is that a senior who is depressed has a higher likelihood of developing physical ailments as well. A person at any age will have a weakened immune system due to their depression. This is especially dangerous for older people.

In addition, being depressed can cause someone to neglect taking care of themselves, which can add to the situation.

Who’s vulnerable

It’s important to remember that no one is immune to depression, but those with increased risk have:

  • Been unmarried or widowed.
  • No support system.
  • A chronic medical problem.
  • A problem with alcohol.
  • A family history of depression or mood disorders.
  • Financial issues.
  • Been living in a nursing home or have home healthcare.

Lowering the risk

There are things seniors can do to reduce the chances that they will develop depression.

Some of the most important steps to take include maintaining a healthy diet, getting physical activity and spending time with other people. In addition, Vitamin D supplements can help ward off depression.

How to navigate aging and depression

Depression is treatable, though it can’t be dealt with if it isn’t recognized and diagnosed.

Seniors should be encouraged to share troubling feelings and seek the help of their physician if they notice any symptoms of depression or changes in their mood.

Checking out medications as a possible contributor and recognizing the similarities between dementia and depression can lead to an effective remedy.

Lowering the risk through a healthy lifestyle may make a big difference, as well.

Have you noticed any changes in your mood or in the behaviors of a senior you care about?