Senior Living Care Blog

Depression in Older Adults

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Dec 20, 2018 11:00:00 AM


According to information from Harvard Medical School, one in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression. Depression can change the way that people act and can get in the way of their daily life. Depression is often characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety and hopelessness but there are a number of other symptoms that can be associated with depression.

Depression is usually treated with medication and therapy but other factors can play a role in improving mental health. For instance, getting proper sleep, drinking more water, getting the nutrition you need, and exercising can all be used to improve mood and may even help fight depressive disorders.



About Depression

Depression is a common but serious mental health and mood disorder. Being affected by depression can change the way you live your daily life and can affect the way you feel and think. To be diagnosed with depression symptoms will generally need to be present for at least two weeks. People suffering from depression can have different symptoms but can include some of the following:

  • Persistent sad or anxious feeling or mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Decreased energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


In Older Adults

Depression can, at times, be more difficult to recognize because they can show different symptoms than young people with depression. For older adults depression is less about sadness and they can have other, less obvious symptoms. For instance, some older people who are experiencing depression may appear to feel tired, have trouble sleeping, physical aches or pain, and can seem grumpy.


Other older individuals with other medical conditions can cause depression symptoms, these conditions include heart disease, stroke, or cancer.



Types of Depression

Two elderly woman sitting at a cafe at night

There are a number of different types of depression. These types of depression normally differ in what causes them, others are characterized by how they affect an individual and how long they last.


Major Depressive Disorder

This is the main type of depression that people think of. It is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in most things.


Persistent Depressive Disorder

This type of depression, sometimes referred to as dysthymia, lasts for at least two years. The severity of the symptoms will fluctuate in persistent depressive disorder, with episodes of major depression along with times of less intense symptoms.


Seasonal Affective Disorder

This is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months. During this time there is less natural sunlight, and depending on where you live, there can be little to no sunlight at all. This seasonal depression will generally resolve itself during spring or summer. Some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder is social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain.




An older man taking his prescription medicine

The are a number of antidepressant drugs that can be used to improve mood, sleep, and appetite. The common types of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac, Zoloft and more. Other types of medication for depression include serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI).



SSRIs have fewer side effects than other antidepressants, they can ease symptoms of depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain by blocking the re-absorption of serotonin in the brain, making the neurotransmitters more available.



SNRIs are a class of medication that are often used for depression by can treat other conditions such as anxiety disorders and chronic pain. SNRIs ease depression by blocking the re-absorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine.


Antidepressants usually take around two to four weeks to work properly and often other symptoms like sleep and appetite can improve before mood improves.




Two older seniors out on a hike in the mountains

While antidepressants can be a common and successful way to treat depression, there is a lot of evidence that points to the fact that exercise can be an effective treatment in fighting some forms of depression.


“For some people it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression,” said Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard.


Exercising can have a number of health benefits including protecting against heart and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, improving sleep, and increases endorphins.Most importantly for people with depression, exercise can spur the release of proteins that can help nerve cells in the brain grow and make new connections. Dr. Miller says that improving nerve cell connections helps to relieve depression.


The hardest part of exercising is getting started. But, just starting slow and building up endurance and length of exercises can be the best way to get into it.


While exercising may be harder for older individuals, there are a few options that are more appropriate for seniors. The four main types of exercises that can help older adults include endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.



Endurance exercises are good for cardiovascular health and breathing. Some exercises that can improve endurance include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and more



Strength exercises will help to make muscles stronger and can keep the body moving later in life. Lifting weights and using a resistance band are ways to improve strength.



Balance can help prevent falls in older individuals. Leg raises, toe lifts, and calf stretches are all important exercises that can improve balance and prevent a nasty spill.



Flexibility is another form of exercise that can be used to prevent falls. Doing daily stretching exercises can be helpful and may improve daily life.


Other factors besides exercise that can help make an impact on depressive disorders include increasing sleep, eating better, and drinking more water. All of these things can be used to improve overall health as well.



In Conclusion

Depression is a serious mental health and emotional disorder. It affects many people and it is very common disease across the country. There are a number of different types of depression but they are normally characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness. Generally, people with depression are given medication to improve mood but there are other options that can be used to improve depressive disorders. Exercise is an all-natural form of treatment that can be used to fight depression. At Landmark Senior Living, we offer our resident the care that they require at our retirement communities while also providing them with access to social functions and events that allow them to stay excited as they age.


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Topics: Senior Mental Health

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