Last month’s poll: Is depression part of normal aging?

No it is not. The good news is that most people do not get depressed as they age.

“Certainly as we age there are more things that occur that can influence depression,” explains Dr. Cindy Grief, Baycrest psychiatrist. “For example, there are medical issues, physical limitations, as well as loss and lifestyle changes. Despite this, most people learn to cope well,”

“Try to remain socially and physically active because these help our mood in a positive way,” she advises. “Conditions such as chronic pain, loss of functional ability or physical limitations due to arthritis or osteoporosis, hearing loss or visual impairment, losing loved ones and even retirement can bring us down because they affect our ability to connect with people and stay active.”

Some tips for preventing depression include:

  • exercise
  • social connections
  • eat well
  • see your doctor
  • volunteer or join clubs

As medical conditions begin creeping up on us, Dr. Grief says we should find ways to modify what we do rather than give up our activities completely. A healthy lifestyle, as well as learning to cope and modify as we age, is important for our mental and physical health.

A proper diagnosis is important too. Depression can occasionally be mistaken for dementia in older adults. Memory problems and confusion can be symptoms of depression. Speak to your doctor so that a proper medical assessment and appropriate treatment can be arranged. If it’s depression, medication or psychotherapy can usually help lift the cloud.

If you are feeling down or your loved one is showing signs of depression, speak to your family doctor, nurse or social worker. Talking to someone who understands depression is the first step in beating it.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Loss of interest in going out.
  • Constantly tired and low in energy.
  • Not interested in eating.
  • More nervous, hesitant and anxious.
  • Having difficulty making decisions.
  • Loss of interest in pleasure.

When identified early and properly diagnosed, older adults respond well to treatment and most often can return to their usual activities and state of health.

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