Despite seeing and experiencing almost everything life has to offer, older adults are not immune to depression. Regardless of background or number of achievements, feelings of anxiety and hopelessness can still haunt adults later on in life.
According to the NHS, half of adults aged 55 and above are prone to experiencing bouts of depression.
Whether you’re concerned for an older family member or someone else who is at an advanced age, there are three areas where you can help them cope with depression.
Regular contact with other people
Isolation from the outside world can have severe effects on the mental health of older adults. It may make them feel like they’re not relevant anymore or that people are no longer interested in seeing them.
It’s crucial for you to help them be around people. Visit them regularly (ideally on most days of the week) and make an effort to engage them in a conversation about subjects they like to talk about. Take them out for long walks by the park or anywhere outdoors.
Alternatively, if you don’t have much time on your hands, enrol them in a depression support group. Meeting other older people who experience the same problems can help foster a sense of unity and togetherness. It may also help them see depression in a new and healthier perspective.
Engaging new interests
Many older adults may dwell far too long in the past, obsessing over a lost skill or other bygones.
Help them move forward and emphasize what they are still capable of doing (instead of what they used to be able to do). This is a good opportunity to support older adults in picking up a new skill or hobby. There are numerous options to choose from, whether it be in the area of games and leisure, sports, music or art.
Travel may also be something viable for them to do. Is there a country or region which they always wanted to visit but never had time for in their younger years? Or maybe they have a favorite place or vacation spot that they’ve been meaning to revisit? Help them plan for that kind of trip and accompany them if possible.
Adopting healthy habits
It’s no secret that as adults progress into their 50s and beyond, food and dietary concerns must become more stringent. With depression, it can be difficult to keep track of healthy eating.
Help older adults find ways to manage their food intake. Minimize consumption of sugary and starchy foods that worsen blood sugar levels. If the older adult in your care requires special care throughout the day, consider hiring 24-hour care services.
Additionally, regular exercise has been consistently cited by medical experts as an effective antidepressant. Workouts don’t even have to be as intensive and rigorous. Encourage older adults to move their body often, whether it’s through doing chores, going for walks or going up a flight of stairs.
These are just a few ideas on how you can help older adults cope with depression. If you find that despite your best efforts, things aren’t improving for them, it is highly recommended for you to seek out the expert advice of a doctor or general practitioner.