Depression and Old Age


Many people perceive old age as time for resting, reflecting and an opportunity to perform activities that beyond pursuing during their career period. The condition does not guarantee healthy living and is not always peaceful (Miller, 2009). Old age is defined as the age of an individual approaching or beyond the average lifespan of humans. The elderly are known differently depending on the situation. For example in United States, they are referred to as seniors, in British they are known as elderly or senior citizens (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). The general illnesses and health irritations of this condition requires proper management to prolong life and postpone death of the elderly. Proper management of the condition involves considering psychological needs to avoid old age depression. In addition, mental health is vital in the management of the condition. In relation to this, the study discusses old age depression in the aging process of the elderly.

Aging and depression

Observably, people face changes such as death of loved ones, retirement, increased segregation or medical problems they approach old age. These challenges cause late-life depression, a condition that if left untreated it can touches more beyond an individual’s mood (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). Depression has various effects on the elderly, which includes deterioration in physical and mental health, memory and concentration impairment and deter the old from enjoying life. Depression can be avoided and is not inherent in old age. Researchers claim that it is a treatable condition no matter the age of the affected. Psychologically, human brain transforms throughout life hence it is possible to make positive changes (Thomas, 2009).

Old age depression causes the elderly to lose interest in various activities, to struggle with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). Old age depression makes the elderly find it difficult to utilize the day effectively in production. Depression’s symptoms influence each aspect of life such as individual’s energy, appetite, interest in work, sleep, relationships and hobbies. Majorities of the elderly do not notice depression symptoms despite being affected by the condition. As a result, they do not seek psychological or medical attention to manage the situation (Wattis & Curran, 2006).

Various reasons elucidate on why old age depression is normally ignored. The first reason is that the elderly convince themselves for having reasons to justify the condition. Majority of the elderly will suffer silently because they think depression is inherent in old age (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). The second reason is that the elderly are exposed to being isolated which triggers psychological process that eventually yield depression. Providing company to the seniors is particularly crucial in averting depression. Another reason is that the old rarely recognize that some physical illnesses are clear indications of depression. Realistically, the elderly normally feel unenthusiastic to discuss feelings or ask for assistance, which results to depression. The reason being the fear of being rejected or rushing to the conclusion that they are affected by old age.

Depression should not be depicted as an indication for weakness or character blemish (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). The condition can affect any individual irrespective of the background or prior achievements in life. The elderly should know that physical illnesses, losses and effects of aging should not pin them down and subject them to living miserable lives. Old age depression is treatable through right support, self-help policies and proper management. This implies that it is possible for the elderly to have a vibrant life. Major causes of old age depression include health problems, loneliness, reduced sense of purpose and recent bereavement. Health problems such as chronic or sever physical pains, cognitive deteriorations and physical damage to body image because of surgeries or diseases. Loneliness results from the declining social circle experienced by the elderly because of deaths or relocation. The elderly have restricted mobility, which hinders their social ability (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). Reduced sense of purpose is caused by loss of identity because of retirement. The fear of death, financial problems and anxiety are other causative factors of depression. Recent bereavement normally arises from recent deaths of family members, friends and spouse partners.

According to Thomas (2009), physical illnesses among the old tend to aggravate the risk of depression. Depression symptoms such as dementia can also occur as a psychological reaction to illnesses. Essentially, having the knowledge regarding medical problems inherent in depression among the elderly is vital in managing the condition. Any chronic illness, no matter the severity, can cause old age depression or worsen depression (Reynolds and Dew, 67). Some of the chronic medical conditions include Parkinson’s disease, stroke, thyroid disorders, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Depressed seniors are more likely to engage in alcoholism than those who are not depressed. Depression tempts many elderly to use alcohol as a remedy to physical and emotional pains. Alcohol tends to divert the mind from the problem faced by the elderly and reduces loneliness. Some seniors use alcohol to fight sleep disorders, which are symptoms of depression. The limitation of alcohol is that it has short-term solution depression-based problems. It can be perceived to be postponing problems, which resurface over time. Alcohol also worsens symptoms of depression, causes irritability and anxiety and damages brain functionality (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). Another effect of alcohol is that it negatively reacts with antidepressants, which are essential in the medication of depression.

Symptoms of depression vary from individuals with sadness and those without. The elderly people experiencing sadness show signs such as fatigue, loss of interest, self-isolation, sleep disturbances, low self-esteem and suicidal imaginations. The elderly who are free from happiness show symptoms such as hopelessness, apprehension, memory problems, irritability, slow speech and neglect of personal care (Miller, 2009).

Preventing old age depression

It is quite a mystery to know that old age makes an individual unable learn a new skill and participate in life-changing activities. However, the brain’s functionality is a continuous process and changes every time (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). This reflects that the elderly have abilities similar to the young. Prevention and management of depression requires engaging in things that the patient enjoys, learning and acclimatizing to the environmental changes and living a physically and socially active life. Some forms of overcoming the condition include exercising, connecting with people, bringing one’s life into balance and other self-help activities such as getting adequate sleep and proper dietary habits (Miller, 2009).

Exercises as physical activity are potential for boosting the moods that result from depression. Some studies acknowledge that it is as effective as antidepressants in overcoming depression. Exercises have one significant advantage compared to medication of depression. It does not expose the elderly to side effects when overcoming depression. Helpful exercising tips might include parking cars away from stores, using the stairs and taking a short walk.

Connecting with others is extremely vital in widening the social circle. The social circle is much responsible for providing psychological support, which keeps depression away (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). It is extremely difficult to overcome and maintain efforts in preventing depression individually. Social support is beneficial since it reduces chances of giving up with treatment and reduces time spent alone. To speed up the process of managing depression, the elderly should invite relatives to live with them and maintain contact with loved ones (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003).

Depression and the aging process

Researchers have justified the effects of depression on the aging process of the human body. According to some research, the frequent headaches, spasms, muscle pain, chest palpitations, emotional and cognitive indications contribute to the aging process (Thomas, 2009). Another recent study affirmed that the unnoticeable impacts of depression destroy the cellular structure of the human body, which may hasten aging process (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003).

Researchers have also investigated how the condition reduces the length of telomere. Telomeres are the shielding caps at the endings of chromosomes. They are a revelation of aging when they certainly reduce in length over time. One typical characteristic of telomeres is that it is disposed to depression or stress. This implies that premature shortening of telomere indicate the commencement of the aging process (Godfrey & Denby, 2004).

Depression and stress affect the normal functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, also referred to as HPA axis (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). The HPA axis regulates how people respond to stress and depression. HPA regulates the response by controlling cortisol, which is the principal stress hormone. The affected functionality of the HPA axis results to extreme depression, which leads to the shortening of the telomeres. The resultant effect is the speeding up of the aging process. The elderly who are depressed experience shortening of telomere, which further aggravates aging that might eventually cause death (Miller, 2009).

Depression and dying

Depression can be linked to death in various ways. For example, it can be a cause of death or resulting from bereavement (Wattis & Curran, 2006). Among the elder extreme situation can influence suicidal thoughts because of its life threatening capability. This is because it can result to development of diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease among the old. Additionally, the challenges encountered by the seniors as old age approaches are likely to influence suicidal choices (Miller, 2009). Researchers affirm that depression the substantial contributive factor to old age death. Notably, the consequences of depression are the causalities of death. This implies proper management of the depression symptoms will lead to a reduction in deaths that are linked to depression.

Various age related issues like sleep problems, possession of firearms and weapons that can cause death, inadequate social support, decline health standards and complicated life changes substantially contribute to high rates of suicidal deaths among the aged. Some theorist concluded that poor sleep quality cause old age death. The causality of poor sleeping habits is attributed to depression hence the depressed and aged are vulnerable to having poor sleeping pattern which might increase the risks of death (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). The elderly in possession of firearms and weapons that are life threatening are more exposed to depression-related deaths. It has been proven that firearms are the preferred method of committing suicide among the depressed who are aged. Apparently, possessing a firearm increases the risks of suicide to anyone, not just the old.

Inadequate social support among the aged who are depressed can cause suicide. The reduced sociability among the aged has an impact on social support needed to prolong their lives. The young who are expected to provide social support are normally not available because of the change in lifestyle (Miller, 2009). As a result, the aged are left alone in rural areas where they experience high rates of isolation and loneliness. Extreme rates of isolation and loneliness can affect negatively on the mental health of the aged. Thoughts of suicides are the consequences of loneliness and the helpless state they are in when in the rural areas.

Deteriorating health condition such as infestation of old age-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s, stroke and heart diseases can cause the elderly to think about committing suicide. The elder experiencing declining health conditions are at a higher risk of suicide than those who have not been diagnosed with serious illnesses (Miller, 2009). Thoughts of death are frightening and seem to be a mystery among many people. Getting aware of the type of death one is likely die during old age is much worse and causes depression. Additionally radical life changes such as retirement or the decease of a loved one causes depression which increases the risk of committing suicide.

Performing psychotherapy is highly essential in preventing old age suicides related to depression (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). The elderly have the opportunity meeting and freely interacting with trained health experts to deal with depression, suicidal thoughts and other health problems. Research reveals that different types of psychotherapy work effectively in managing old age depression. Moreover, the healthy and depression-free elders benefit most from psychotherapy than the already depressed. Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants can reduce development of suicidal thoughts among the elderly. Some study conducted affirmed that approximately 80 percent of the elderly suffering from depression has restored their normal mental state from the combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, the elderly who are suffering from depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts for the first time should seek medical attention from a doctor before the symptoms disappear.

Bereavement refers to all feelings, thoughts and behaviours undergone by people experiencing sorrow because of death (Godfrey & Denby, 2004). The term is used interchangeably with grief describes the event of losing something such as job, loved ones and other noteworthy things that can result to changes in the mental state. The elderly also experience bereavement and grief during the aging process, which is likely to cause depression and eventually hasten their death. The elderly require strong and caring social association with other people for emotional support (Cole & Dendukuri, 2003). Death can cause the association or relationship to the elderly to break, which fatally affects their emotions.

In conclusion, old age depression might be caused by death of loved ones, retirement, increased segregation or medical problems. The various effects late-life depression includes deterioration in physical and mental health, memory and concentration impairment. Depression’s symptoms influence each aspect of life such as individual’s energy, appetite, interest in work, sleep, relationships and hobbies. Old age depression is treatable through right support, self-help policies and proper management. Exercises as physical activity are vital for boosting the moods that result from depression. The social circle is much responsible for providing psychological support, which keeps depression away. Different age-related issues like sleep problems, possession of firearms and weapons that can cause death, inadequate social support, decline health standards and serious life changes substantially contribute to high rates of suicidal deaths among the aged.


Cole, M., & Dendukuri, N. (2003). Risk Factors for Depression Among Elderly Community Subjects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American journal of psychiatry, 78-89.

Godfrey, M., & Denby, T. (2004). Depression and older people: towards securing well-being in later life. New York: The Policy Press .

Miller, C. (2009). Nursing for wellness in older adults. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Reynolds, C., & Dew, M. (2006). Maintenance Treatment of Major Depression in Old Age. The New Journal of England, 78-85.

Thomas, J. (2009). Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies. New York: Springer.

Wattis, J., & Curran, S. (2006). Practical psychiatry of old age. New York: Radcliffe Publishing .

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