Combating depression as you get older

Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but feelings of hopeless over a long period of time can lead to depression.

Depressions is a problem that a quarter of people aged 65 or older face at some point in their lives, so being able to identify signs that you may have depression is crucial, not only for you but also your close friends and neighbours.

As we get older our mobility can make it tough to function and enjoy life like we did, this for example, can lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. But depression can also affect your energy, sleep, appetite and interests.

Depression is a condition that can strike at any age, which means that a lot of people may have to battle it during one stage of their lives. Here are some of the most common signs of depression, plus the steps to take to fight them, as you get older.

Signs and symptoms

Some people fail to recognise the signs of depression which can mean they do not get the help they need, so being aware of some of the symptoms is the first step to ensuring that depression in older adults is not overlooked.

For instance, if you feel isolated and lonely, believe feeling down is just part and parcel of aging, or you are reluctant to talk about your feelings, these could all be traits of depression. But with the right knowledge and guidance there will be no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy yourself once again, no matter what challenges you’ve faced over the years.

Signs and symptoms of depression can vary, but here are some of the most common symptoms of depression in the elderly.

  • Loss of interest in daily activities and socialising
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Concentration problems
  • Lack of motivation and loss of energy
  • Sleep changes and disturbances
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Easily irritated or agitated

Since depression is complex, there could be other factors that are impacting your mood. So if you feel depressed or have feelings of depression talk to your GP or call the NHS on 111.

Tips for coping with depression

Although depression is common, you can feel like you are battling against it alone. Isolating yourself and disconnecting from your friends and family can make depression worse. In general the more engaged you are, the better you’ll feel.

Here are four easy and simply ways to keep engaged on a day-to-day basis so you can get back to feeling yourself again.

#1 Watch your alcohol intake

It is not uncommon to have a drink from time to time, but alcohol is a depressive and is going to depress you even more if you are already feeling down. Although in the first instance, alcohol can feel like an escape from your saddened moods, once the buzz has worn off, it can make you feel worse resulting in an unhealthy drinking habit.

As a first step, be more aware of how much alcohol you are drinking, as alcohol and drugs can also interfere with any prescribed medications so be cautious of your weekly habits.

#2 Stay active

Keeping active through exercise is a tried and tested winner if you are feeling depressed. Even just getting out of the house and walking down a street can help un-clutter your mind and help you to feel refreshed for the day.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, try a daily 20-minute walk around your local area. If you regularly exercise, try taking up a new sport or an exercise program like Tai Chai, which is also proven to prevent falls by teaching coordination between your body and mind.

Alternatively, keeping your house clean is a great way to keep active around the home. Although, if cleaning feels more challenging than usual, discover some easy ways to get your house sparkling and shiny again.

 #3 Keep connected

It can sometimes be hard to reach out to people if you are feeling down, but keeping yourself isolated has no benefits to your health at all.

Studies have actually demonstrated that people with stronger social networks are more resilient to depression and anxiety, especially in their senior years. So socialising can hugely improve your mood, keeping in touch with family and friends is absolutely vital, especially as it gives you many opportunities to talk to a loved one while you are feeling low.

#4 Healthy diet

Some people find that their appetites completely disappear while they are battling depression, while others can put themselves at risk by finding comfort in food and regularly over eating.

You should focus on maintaining a balanced diet that helps you to regulate a healthy and active lifestyle, while also boosting your mood. Avoiding foods that reduce your mood such as caffeine, sugar and refined carbohydrates will regulate your mood and keep your risk of age and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, as low as possible.

To talk to someone about how you are feeling, or to find out more information about depression contact your GP, or speak to someone at the NHS on 111.