A Sense of Purpose Can Keep Depression at Bay


Depression hits people of all ages, from teens to senior citizens. But it is an especially noticeable problem in senior citizens.

My Charlie is suffering from depression. There are days when he goes to bed at night at 10 p.m. and doesn't get up the next day until nearly noon. This doesn't happen because he doesn't feel well enough to get up. It happens because he is depressed.

The problem is, he has no reason to get up; nothing to look forward to. If it happens to be a day when he has to put the garbage out on the curb, or has an appointment to make, he has no problem getting up.

So what do we do to help our loved ones overcome depression?

Depression in senior citizens is one of the most under-recognized and under-treated medical illnesses.

In the general population, 12 percent of deaths are attributed to suicide. That statistic rises to 16 percent for those aged 65 and older. Depression can be caused by many things; the death of a loved one, loneliness, chronic illness or failure to adjust to retirement.

In Charlie's case I think it is due to lack of purpose and the physical inability to participate in things that used to give him pleasure.

It is imperative to reach out and help someone who is showing signs of depression, by inviting them on outings or encouraging them to re-start a favorite activity.

Many older people increase their alcohol consumption as a means of coping. This will only lead to further depression. Exercise classes such as strength training or Tai Chai can help by enhancing balance, improving core strength and preventing falling.

Insomnia should be remedied by reducing caffeine consumption and keeping to regular bedtimes and wake up schedules.

Now that my knee is healing, Charlie and I are back at our strength training classes. One more reason for him to get out of bed!

Senior citizens should be encouraged to carry family photos with them or keep them nearby, make new friends, and even get online to keep in touch with family and friends. This has been an especially helpful exercise for me – it's the reason I started blogging.

Seniors need to find a purpose in their life. Sometimes adding a pet to the household will give a person suffering from depression motivation and pleasure. Just be sure that the pet will not cause unwelcome complications, such as tripping, financial burden, allergies, etc.

George Bernard Shaw said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing."

Depression may be part of growing old but we need not let it define us. Recognize the warning signs of depression in the elderly whether yourself or others, and look for ways to overcome it or, at least, keep it under control.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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It is so true. When a senior feels helpless they also feel hopeless unless they can find a purpose for living. I am 92 and was beginning to feel helpless after a very active, involved life. Recently, I was asked to lead a Bible Study in the residence where I live. This has given me a new lease on life. Now I never have to sit and wonder what to do and even though I get tired, it is a satisfying feeling.
That is why I wrote "Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body" (Upper Room Books.) Have a sense of purpose is hugely important to the well-being of older adults!