Depression: It’s Not a Normal Part of Aging

September 24, 2020

Bette Davis once said, “Old age is not for sissies.” There are many versions of her quote but they all express the sentiment that aging is a process that requires courage, endurance and fortitude. We handle it best when we cope in the company of friends, family and community because, for many of us, aging may mean physical challenges, reduced income and a shrinking social circle. These factors, plus unrecognized depression, place some older adults—especially older men—at risk for suicide.

Suicide. It’s a topic that’s unpleasant to think about and difficult to discuss. But research shows that talking about it is exactly what’s needed. Depression is often unrecognized in older adults, where it may appear as insomnia and other sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, or a lack of interest in the activities one once enjoyed. But depression is highly treatable with effective medications and therapies, and the treated person may find a renewed interest and joy in life.

Of course, depression and other problems aren’t restricted by age. All of us face challenges as we age, whether in our 50s, 60s, or 90s. Learning to cope with retirement or job loss, a smaller budget, and those morning aches and pains are tasks for each of us. There are remedies available to everyone that become even more important as we grow older, including exercise, good nutrition, mindfulness and meditation, stress reduction, calming activities, and cultivating an optimistic attitude. But when these aren’t enough, it’s good to know that further help is available.

If you’re concerned about a friend, relative or neighbor, don’t just stuff that worry away. Talk to your own parents or grandparents and ask direct questions. Bring up the topic of suicide overtly. The Prairie View Mental Health Crisis Line (800-362-0180) offers 24-hour support for people experiencing a wide range of mental health issues, including depression. For information about our services, call 800-992-6292.