According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects fewer aging adults than it does younger people, however, seniors go through major life changes that could make them more vulnerable to depression. WHO states that 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression and approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder.
Dealing with depression is difficult on its own, but also heartbreaking if you watch an aging loved one struggle with it. While depression is not a normal part of aging, it can greatly affect the cognitive and physical abilities of seniors, resulting in a lower quality of life.
Although feeling blue occasionally is normal, if you notice signs of depression in your aging parents, here are 8 tips to help them cope with it and lead them towards a happier, healthier lifestyle:
1. Help them find a sense of purpose
Research confirms that having a sense of purpose is important for the mental and physical health of aging adults. Many scientists have confirmed the connection between a sense of purpose and healthy aging. Helping your aging parents find a sense of purpose can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure and help them cope with loneliness and depression.
2. Ensure a healthy sleeping routine
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining the mental health of the elderly. Not having a good night’s sleep can aggravate depression and make them feel fatigued all day. By making sure that they have a fixed sleeping routine, you can ensure that they wake up feeling fresh and motivated each day and improve their overall health.
3. Plan a healthy and balanced diet
Good food, good mood. Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of healthy aging. Not only does it help seniors maintain an ideal weight and get all the necessary nutrients, but also keeps them energized and mentally active, reducing the risk of depression.
4. Increase social interaction
The leading causes of depression among the elderly are feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Making new friends and being around people they have more in common with, can boost their confidence and make them feel connected. Companionship with like minded people will help them look forward to new things and feel happier about themselves.
5. Keep them physically active
Exercise produces endorphins (‘feel good’ hormone), which acts as a stress reliever and can make aging adults feel happy and satisfied. Regular physical activity has proven to be a mood booster and help seniors fight symptoms of depression. Signing up for group exercise sessions can make your aging parents feel more motivated and healthy, while making new friends.
6. Keep them mentally stimulated
Just like the body that needs physical stimulation to stay healthy, the aging brain also needs stimulation to stay sharp. Helping your elderly parents engage in brain activities can prevent cognitive decline and symptoms of depression. It boosts their self-esteem and increases their concentration and focus, resulting in improved mental health.
7. Spend quality time as a family
Staying in touch and maintaining a strong relationship with their family goes a long way in preventing depression among aging adults. Make sure you meet or talk to your parents regularly, giving them the confidence that they have your support whenever needed. This will make them feel loved and cared for, reducing their stress and anxiety.
8. Seek professional help if required
Sometimes, the measures listed above may not be enough to help control depression among seniors. If you feel like the symptoms of depression are getting worse, the best option would be to seek professional help for your aging parents. Talk therapy and medication are the most common and effective treatment options to help seniors suffering from depression.
Aging is inevitable, but depression is not. Since your aging parents have cared for you their entire life, it could be easy to assume that they are independent and don’t need a support system. Seniors face various issues during their later years, but with the right help, you could help them lead a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life.
Dealing with your aging parent’s depression should be a priority and treated as a necessary step. This will help them towards a healthier lifestyle, revive their overall well-being and provide them with a better quality of life.