In our last blog, we discussed some of the main health challenges of ageing. Depression was one of those key challenges. It is thought that between 10 and 15 per cent of older people in Australia experience depression.
There are a number of things that older adults can do to overcome depression. While medication and psychotherapy can be prescribed, lifestyle changes can also be hugely beneficial in treating depression in older adults.
In order to overcome depression, older adults should try to find new things to enjoy, learn to adapt to change, stay physically and socially active, and feel connected to loved ones and the wider community.
This can be easier said than done for people living with depression, but taking small steps can make a significant difference. The following can be a good starting point.
1. Stay Connected
Older adults living with depression may not want to see people or do activities. However, it is important to try to force yourself to do these things, as isolation makes depression worse. Support is key to overcoming depression, so it’s important to make an effort to connect to others.
- Get outside: Don’t stay home all day – make an effort to take short trips out. Go to the park, go to a museum, go for a walk or catch up with a friend.
- Join a club: Joining a club is a great wayto meet like-minded people. Look for a senior centre, a book club, walking club, craft club or find another group for things that interest you.
- Find ways to laugh: Laughter is the perfect mood booster, so try to share humorous stories and jokes with those closest to you. Put on a comedy film or read a funny book.
- Attend a Depression Support Group: Being around other people who have the same issues can help to reduce feelings of loneliness. The others in the group may also give you some ideas on how to cope with depression,
2. Stay Healthy
Our health habits directly impact symptoms of depression. The more we look after our body, the better we feel. As such, the following can help to reduce feelings of depression.
- Exercise: Research has shown that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. We don’t have to do an intense workout to get the benefits. Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk – anything that gets us moving.
- Eat Well: Minimise sugar and refined carbs in our diet. Instead, try to eat more protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, which can help us feel emotionally balanced.
- Get Out in the Sun: Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels in our bodies, which can improve our mood. As such, it’s important to try to get outside during daylight hours and be exposed to the sun – aim for at least 15 minutes a day.
- Sleep Well: A lack of sleep can make depression symptoms worse. Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, and making sure the bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool can all help us sleep better at night.
3. Find an Engaging Activity
Feeling engaged in something that interests you can help overcome depression and stop it from coming back. As we age, it is common for life to change, and we may not be able to participate in the things that previously engaged us. However, we can (and should) find new ways to feel engaged.
- Learn a new skill: When we retire, we typically have more time on our hands, so it’s the perfect opportunity to learn something that we’ve always wanted to or to explore our creative side. Learning new activities can add meaning and joy to life, as well as helping us to maintain brain health.
- Get involved in the community: Volunteer with an event or organisation that is important to you. This can be a great way to use the skills we have learned throughout our life.
- Travel: We don’t need to go too far to experience new places and boost our mood. Spend time in nature by going for a walk or spend a day at the beach.
4. Seek Professional Help if Necessary
Treatment for depression is just as effective for older adults as it is for younger people, so it’s important to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms of depression.
Remember that for many older adults, depression is triggered or compounded by a difficult life situation or challenge. As such, any treatment plan should also address that issue. For example, if loneliness after the death of a spouse is the cause of the depression, medication alone is unlikely to fix the problem. A health professional will be the best person to assist in these circumstances to help you overcome depression.
For more information on this article, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks.