Feeling “down” occasionally is normal. It happens to everyone from time to time. But if someone has these feelings that persist for weeks or months, it could mean they have depression.
If your parent or loved one has shown persistent signs of feeling down, it’s important to help identify and prevent depression. Let’s take a look at some symptoms of depression and some prevention strategies you can put to use for yourself or for a family member. This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your doctor with specific questions.
About Depression in Older Adults
Unfortunately, depression in older adults is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s a normal part of aging. Some seniors who are at risk of suffering depression may be able to avoid it with preventative measures.
There are several types of depression, including the following:
Major Depressive Disorder
If your loved one is depressed most of the time for more than two weeks, it could be a sign of major depressive disorder. Symptoms include the inability to sleep or work.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia, another name for persistent depressive disorder, usually includes less severe depression symptoms, but they last much longer. Persistent depressive disorder can last for as long as two years.
Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder
If your loved one’s mood seems to change after taking or being exposed to a medication or substance, they could have medication-induced depressive disorder.
Depressive Disorder Due to a Medical Condition
This diagnosis comes when someone has both a prominent and persistent depressed mood. Another symptom is the lack of interest in things someone normally enjoys.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
A case of the “winter blues” can be more serious than it sounds. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real, and seniors are at particular risk for it during the darker, colder months.
Is it time to get help for you or your loved one? Take our 4-minute assessment to get more detail on the right direction for you.Take the Assessment
12 Depression Prevention Strategies for Seniors
Everyone needs socialization to thrive, but due to various factors as we age, there may be more time spent alone. That’s when social isolation creeps in and becomes a large contributor to conditions such as depression and anxiety. Thankfully, there are strategies to take to help combat depression in older adults.
1. Physical Activity
Being active is a good idea for people of all ages, but for seniors, it’s especially crucial. Staying active is important for building strong bones, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as enhancing balance, flexibility, and coordination.
Staying active makes seniors feel strong and alert, which goes a long way to keeping depressive thoughts and ideas away. That doesn’t mean your loved one needs to buy an expensive spin bike or start kickboxing. It’s more about staying in motion and moving at your own pace. Even a walk around the block can have a positive impact on your loved one’s mental health.
2. Balance Exercises
Balance exercises are all about stability and coordination and helping seniors stay upright for everything from walking and exercising to dancing and socializing. As we get older, it’s even more crucial to do exercises to improve balance. Balance exercises are essential for senior citizens, helping to reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
Seniors who want to improve their balance may want to try:
3. Endurance Training
Cardio, aerobics, dancing—all of these exercises are great for endurance. These activities increase heart rate to help seniors attain and maintain good cardiovascular health. This is particularly important for seniors because the cardiovascular system and lung capacity decline as people age. Including endurance exercises is crucial to strengthening the heart and lungs and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Great endurance exercises for seniors include:
- Walking: Brisk walking, if possible
- Swimming: Gets the heart rate going while minimizing joint impact
- Low-impact aerobics: Have fun while you move
- Stationary cycling: Nothing extreme, just a nice steady peddle
4. Flexibility Practice
There’s nothing quite like a good stretch! Flexibility exercises for seniors are all about stretching and moving the joints to improve range of motion and prevent stiffness. These exercises are a great way for seniors to increase muscle flexibility, which reduces the risk of falls and improves overall physical function.
Some examples of flexibility exercises for seniors include:
- Tai Chi
- Stretching exercises
- Range of motion exercises
5. Strength Training
Resistance training—or strength training—is important for everyone, but especially seniors. When people age, they naturally lose muscle mass and bone density, which can decrease strength and increase the risk of falling. Strength exercises help seniors improve muscle mass and bone density.
Some strength exercises to try include:
- Resistance band exercises
- Wall push-ups
- Bicep curls
6. Regular Sleep Patterns
Like all adults, seniors need 7-9 hours of sleep. As we age, it can be harder to get a quality night’s sleep for a number of reasons, including medication side effects, pain, or any chronic illness.
The first thing to do when sleep is elusive is to develop a routine. This promotes healthy sleep habits and establishes a regular sleep-wake cycle. A regular sleep routine is the first line of defense to overcome sleep issues.
How does one establish a sleep routine? Here are some tips:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends or holidays.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine to wind down and prepare for sleep, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book.
- Put down the screens! It’s important to stop engaging in stimulating activities before bedtime, and that includes cell phones, tablets, and televisions.
7. Healthy Diet
Good nutrition is important for maintaining energy, achieving weight loss, and avoiding illnesses that can cause depression. We really are what we eat, so never underestimate the power of healthful foods when it comes to avoiding depression. Sugar might taste great, but it’s terrible for the mind. Although there’s nothing wrong with a sweet treat, too many of them can seriously impact your mood,
To help prevent depression with the help of a healthy diet, seniors should:
- Eat foods with a lot of nutrients: Be sure to get plenty of leafy greens that are high in vitamins; fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids; and nuts and seeds filled with protein, fiber, and minerals.
- Avoid high-calorie foods without nutrients: Stay away from processed snacks and sweets, sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice, fried food and fast food meals, and excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Pick low-cholesterol and low-fat foods: These foods reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, so eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and legumes.
8. Plenty of Water
Everyone, but especially seniors, should drink lots of water for many reasons! We’re talking about depression in this article, and dehydration can contribute to mood changes, fatigue, and cognitive impairment—all symptoms of depression. Being well-hydrated is essential for optimal physical and mental health as we age.
Although scientists don’t all agree, in general, the recommendation is to drink at least eight cups of water per day. Some seniors may need less and some may need more, but eight is an easy number to remember and a good hydration goal.
We’re social creatures, and that doesn’t change as we age. But staying social can get more difficult for seniors, especially after they retire or after the death of a spouse. Making sure your loved one is getting in plenty of time with friends and family can absolutely help seniors avoid depression.
When it comes to our parents or loved ones, we want to make sure that aging doesn’t lead to loneliness and depression. Socialization has numerous benefits, including cognitive and mental health benefits, and there are plenty of ways to ensure your loved one is getting quality face time with friends and family.
If your parent or loved one lives in a senior living community, casual visits should be easy and welcome. If you’re considering senior living communities, ask how easy a casual, drop-in visit is. Make sure you can hang out with Mom on a random Tuesday for lunch, or have your kids visit Grandpa after his daily card game.
10. Community Resources
Getting out into the community is a great way to stay connected to the world around you—that fact doesn’t change for seniors. If your parent or loved one enjoyed going to local high school ball games or seeing community plays, keep it up!
Want to get involved in the community but aren’t sure how? Start with your local library. You can get resources there about local organizations and groups who do everything from help with charities to activities groups who knit, walk, read—you name it, your community probably has a group for it.
What better way to spend quality time together than by helping others? Volunteering takes things to a whole other level. This is about helping people and serving those less fortunate. Nothing feels quite as fulfilling as helping others in need.
12. Favorite Hobbies
Participating together in activities your loved one finds meaningful can help them feel happier, period. It sounds almost silly, but it’s actually quite powerful.
Research shows that participating in mentally stimulating activities or physical activities can have a positive impact on memory and improve thinking abilities. So, while seniors do whatever hobbies they love to do, they can also improve their memory and cognitive abilities.
How Senior Living Communities Can Help
There are many benefits and perks to senior living communities, and preventing depression in seniors is a big one.
Staying social is of utmost importance when it comes to depression prevention. Social circles are built-in at the right senior living community. The right senior living communities are designed to increase meaningful senior socialization and enhance connections between neighbors in order to boost emotional, mental, and physical health.
It's true that our social circles get smaller as we age. That’s why the companionship that comes with a senior living community is so important. From meals to activities to staff, the right community makes sure its residents get the companionship they need, Plus, with all of Cedarhurst’s special programming and activities, the possibilities for new friends and companionship are just a step out the front door, every day.
Living Your Best Possible Life
Seniors should always have a choice. Cedarhurst’s Living TRUE℠ program means the following about your senior living community experience:
- Tailored to You
- Relationships of Integrity and Trust
- Uplifted to Live Your Best Life
- Excitement of the Senses
Eating well is a big thing. For seniors, the food has to be not just delicious but also nutritious. The Crafted by Cedarhurst℠ culinary program is based on the belief that beautiful, delicious food affirms good living. With always-available dining choices, daily specials, fresh soups, and tailored-to-you service, we make dining a delectable way to stay connected while also staying nourished.
Find Out More About Aging, Health, and Senior Living
When it comes to depression prevention strategies for seniors, staying active, sleeping well, eating a healthy diet, and having social connections and activities are a must. But we’re just getting started talking about aging, health, and senior living.
Dive deeper and learn more with our new e-book, The Holistic Approach to Aging and Health with Senior Living.