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Prevention Presents: Seniors & Depression - Signs, Symptoms, and Getting Help

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Seniors & Depression: Signs, Symptoms & Getting Help
Charlene Toska
Senior Prevention Educator

The changes that come later in life—retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, medical problems—can all lead to depression. Depression prevents you from enjoying life like you used to. It can impact your energy, sleep, appetite, and physical health. However, depression is not an inevitable part of aging, and there are things you can do to overcome depression once you recognize the signs and symptoms.

Some depression red flags include:

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Difficultly falling asleep, staying asleep or oversleeping
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide

If you or a loved one are experience depression, consider attending counseling or therapy, which can help identify the underlying causes of depression, rather than just treating the symptoms.

  1. Supportive counseling includes religious and peer counseling. It can ease loneliness and the hopelessness of depression, and help you find new meaning and purpose.
  2. Therapy helps you work through stressful life changes, heal from losses, and process difficult emotions. It can also help you change negative thinking patterns and develop better coping skills.
  3. Support groups for depression, illness, or bereavement connect you with others who are going through the same challenges. They are a safe place to share experiences, advice, and encouragement.

    In addition to seeking professional help, there are many self-care tips you can utilize to help combat depression:

  4. Exercise.  Physical activity is a great mood booster.  Find some form of exercise that is enjoyable for you; a walk in the park, a group fitness class, riding a bike, swimming,  or exercising in a chair or wheelchair.. Having positive and strong relationships is a very healthy way to overcome depression.  Find someone you can confide in and will be there to support you.  Having a strong support system can help get you through tough times.
  5. Get enough sleep. When you don't get enough sleep, your depression symptoms can be worse. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  6. Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid eating too much sugar and junk food. Choose healthy foods that provide nourishment and energy.
  7. Participate in activities you enjoy. Pursue whatever hobbies or pastimes bring or used to bring you joy.
  8. Volunteer your time. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself and expand your social network.
  9. Take care of a pet. A pet can keep you company, and walking a dog, for example, can be good exercise for you and a great way to meet people.
  10. Learn a new skill. Pick something that you’ve always wanted to learn, or that sparks your imagination and creativity.
  11. Create opportunities to laugh. Laughter provides a mood boost, so swap humorous stories and jokes with your loved ones, watch a comedy, or read a funny book.

You don’t have to live with depression and you don't have to face it alone. There is help available. Make sure to seek out the proper help and get back to your “happy” self and sense of well being.


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A Place For Mary
Kathy Schnapp, LSW, OCPSII
Prevention Education
Heroin & Opiate Initiative



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