Depression affects around six million Americans ages 65 and older. It can lead to increased risk of cardiac disease and raises the risk of mortality from illnesses. It can also lead to suicide. In fact, suicide rates for people 80-84 are double that of the general population. Here are some ways we can combat this prevalent problem.
• Encourage socialization: Isolation is a major sign of depression. Humans are social by nature and tend to thrive when connecting with others. Circumstances related to getting older can increase the risk of isolation.
• Encourage activity: Exercise can help stave off depression.
• Help the person find a purpose: Oftentimes, the reason older adults feel depressed is because they feel like their life has no purpose. Volunteering can be a good way to help discover that purpose.
• Make sure they have healthy alone time: While isolation is not ideal, overscheduling someone and not giving him or her any alone time to reflect and unwind is also not ideal.
The main thing is to reach out to someone you know is struggling. This does not mean prying. Just let the person know you are there if something is wrong.