“Dad doesn’t seem like his usual self,” you say to yourself after your most recent visit with your father.
He seemed more distant and lethargic. You remember when he enjoyed gardening and discussing the most recent book he had read.
Now he just sits at home by the window.
You think it might be depression, but you wonder: Is depression in seniors is a result of aging?
The short answer to this question is an empathetic “No!”
Senior citizens do struggle with depression, just like people of any age. But, if it’s not a direct result of aging, what is it a result of?
What Causes Depression in Seniors?
Research shows that depression is not simply a result of getting older. So, if you have a preconceived belief that depression or feeling sad is just a natural part of aging, try to shift your thinking.
The reality is that there are many senior citizens who are happy and enjoy living life with gusto in their senior years. However, seniors are more exposed to certain risk factors that could cause depression.
History of Depression
One factor that can indicate depression in seniors is whether they have struggled with depression in the past.
Keep in mind that many people still feel stigmatized about having a mental health issue and may be reluctant to talk about it. You may think that you know everything about a loved one, such as your parents. However, there is always the possibility that they experienced an undiagnosed depression in their past.
They might have even privately sought out therapy for depression. And so it stayed private and was never shared with you.
Another reason why a senior may feel depressed is from experiencing a personal loss. As you get older, friends or family move to new cities, or even pass away.
Feeling that they don’t have people close by who understand or care for them can certainly be a cause for depression. This is especially true if your loved one has lost their spouse or partner. It can be a very difficult experience for someone who was part of a couple to lose their mate of so many years.
There are several physical problems that can either trigger or exacerbate depression in seniors. One is called vascular depression.
This occurs because there is reduced blood flow throughout the body as someone gets older, including the brain. Less blood flow to the brain can make it harder to function, and it can cause depression.
Other health issues related to aging that can occur with depression include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
Additionally, as senior citizens age, they often experience a marked decline in health and physical ability from when they were younger. This loss in function and health can certainly lead to feeling depressed.
Certain medications can also cause depression in seniors. This effect is not restricted to one or two drugs. Medications that treat cardiovascular problems, inflammation, infections, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as stimulants, can all cause depression.
It doesn’t hurt to check with your loved one’s physician and ask about the side effects of any medications they’re taking for treating physical ailments.
Therapy for Depression
Depression in seniors is a real problem, but it certainly is not the direct result of aging. There can be many reasons why senior citizens struggle with depression, both from a physical and mental health perspective.
If you are concerned that your loved one is struggling with depression, encourage them to get help. A therapist who understands depression in seniors can be a great asset. One of the best ways to treat depression, no matter how old you are, is by getting professional depression therapy. With treatment, it’s possible for seniors to still enjoy their final years.
Learn more about my approach to therapy for depression by clicking HERE.