May is Older Americans Month

Flipping through the TV channels while looking for the news the other day, I caught a glimpse of an old movie that got my attention.  It caught my eye because one of the characters was an older man who was so grouchy and uptight that he scared away almost anyone who tried to get close to him. What struck me about this character was how depressed he was.

May is Older Americans’ Month—the month we celebrate older adults and all they have contributed and continue to contribute throughout their lives. The theme of this year’s Older Americans’ Month is “Unleash the Power of Age.”  However, it’s hard to unleash that power— and do all that you can do with it—if you find depression is holding you back.

When we think of depression, we usually think of sorrow. But symptoms of depression in older adults may be different from those in younger people.  They can include irritability, anxiety, and social withdrawal.

More familiar symptoms of depression include:

  • memory problems
  • confusion
  • eating too little or too much
  • weight loss or gain
  • complaints of pain
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • delusions and
  • hallucinations

It’s important to recognize signs of depression in older adults and seek treatment as soon as possible. If untreated, depression can get worse, and can keep people from being engaged in life and from doing the things they enjoy. Depression is particularly common among older people. In part, this is because older adults are more likely to face significant loses than younger people. These losses include declines in health, functioning, and independence, as well as the loss of spouses, other family members, and friends.

But there’s good news: Depression in older people can be successfully treated with medications, “talking therapy,” exercise, and other approaches. In fact, about 80 percent of older people respond well to treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For additional, expert, and comprehensive information about depression in later life, and how to avoid and treat it, click this link.

So don’t let depression hold you back.  If you have symptoms of depression, contact your healthcare provider. If you have a relative or friend who seems to be depressed, urge him or her to do the same.  Focus on staying involved with people you enjoy, sharing activities you find rewarding.  Both are essential to your mental health, no matter what your age.  For a wide range of things you can do with others to celebrate older people’s contributions and to inspire yourself and others to embrace “the power of aging,” visit the Older Americans’ Month website at http://olderamericansmonth.acl.gov.

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