If you are living and breathing as a baby boomer, it is likely that you have experienced disappointments in life. While having a small case of the blues is quite different from clinical depression, it is important to learn how to recognize symptoms of depression in yourself and in your loved ones. This provides seniors and family members the “heads up” they need so they can take the necessary steps. Early treatment is key for minimizing suffering and preventing the worst outcomes.
Depression is a serious psychological disorder that impacts the way you think and feel. CDC reports that seniors are at higher risk for depression, particularly those who require home healthcare or hospitalization. WebMD estimates that about 6 million Americans 65 or older are directly impacted by depression.
Common Risk Factors for Depression
There is conclusive evidence that certain baby boomers are at greater risk for depression based on their individual circumstances. Below are the risk factors associated with a higher incidence of depression.
- Being a female
- Living as a single, divorced, unmarried or widowed senior
- Experiencing stressful events
- Having a lack of social support
- Managing physical conditions such as stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, hypertension, and chronic pain
Symptoms of Depression
While there are many symptoms of depression that are present in younger people and seniors who are depressed, there are some differences worth discussing. The National Institute of Aging reports that many seniors with depression are reluctant to discuss their feelings or may feel numb instead of sad.
Below is a list of commonly recognized symptoms associated with depression. While this list is not representative of every possible symptom, it is fairly comprehensive.
- Ongoing sad feelings
- Decreased energy
- Lack of interest in activities once liked
- Talking or moving at a slower pace
- Changes in sleep, oversleeping or inability to sleep
- Changes in appetite, eating more or less
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Unhealthy focus on thoughts of death
- Contemplation about suicide or suicide attempts
- Loss of interest in sex
Lifestyle Changes that Can Prevent and Treat Depression
While all types of depression aren’t preventable, there are certain lifestyle changes and tips recommended to lessen the chance of suffering from depression.
1. Exercise on a regular basis.
Healthline reports The Mayo Clinic’s finding that claims that exercise has a positive impact on mental health via the release of endorphins, higher body temperatures, and lower amounts of immune system chemicals.
2. Take proactive steps to minimize stress.
While eliminating life’s stressors completely is not possible, there are plenty of strategies anyone can use to minimize them. By learning to say “No” more often, boomers can stop overcommitting to things that stress them out. Chronic stress is often avoidable by simply freeing up more time to live an uncomplicated life.
Another excellent recommendation worth considering is to remember to let go of the things you can’t control in life. By simply refusing to worry about the things in life that we can’t do anything about, we eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress.
Meditation has also proven to lower stress levels. There are many guided meditations that can be accessed on the Internet for beginners.
3. Make getting enough quality sleep a top priority.
Few things in life make you feel as good as a refreshing night’s sleep. It’s no secret that your mental and physical health depends on it. Healthline reports that The National Sleep Foundation’s findings that insomnia sufferers are ten times more likely to develop depression than their peers who get enough sleep.
4. Limit your time on social media.
There is a link between depression and spending too much time on social media sites. Unfortunately, social media can be addictive, so it is important to place time limits on exposure to improve mental health.
5. Build and maintain strong personal relationships.
Even the most dedicated introvert needs some social connection for improved mental health and to avoid depression. Making a concerted effort to bolster your social network pays big dividends in terms of improving your mental outlook. It is important to keep in close contact with friends and family.
6. Minimize your exposure to toxic people.
As hard as we may try, it is practically impossible to completely eliminate the toxic people from our life. The Debby Downers of the world can be found in our family, at work, or in the neighborhood. These are the people that always put a damper on your mood, leaving you sad and feeling worse about life after a few minutes in their company.
The best advice is to steer clear of these people as much as possible. Healthline reports that being around a negative person increases cytokines in the body that are linked to inflammation and depression.
CDC reports that depression is not a normal part of the aging process. While depression can be avoided or minimized by practicing the lifestyle changes mentioned above, there are times when it is necessary to seek medical treatment. Anytime depression symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is time to get some medical help and visit a doctor.