Don’t assume depression is a normal part of aging

Published Oct 29, 2017 at 9:00am

You may know that you are depressed or that someone you love is depressed. On the other hand, you may not know, yet realize there is a problem. We should never assume that depression is a normal part of aging. 

People who are depressed have low energy, lack of appetite, poor motivation to interact with others. They may appear sad. They may dwell on losses in their lives.

The first step in dealing with depression is seeing your doctor. You should tell the doctor what you are feeling like. Primary doctors know that some medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease may seem like depression. Some medication that you take for various health problems may have a side effect of causing depression. So, the first thing the doctor should do is rule out a medical cause for your unhappiness. 

If you have specific worries that you haven’t shared with your doctor such as abdominal pain, a breast lump, or a sore knee – tell him or her. Share your worst worries early in the appointment. Don’t hold back out of shyness. Maybe there are medical solutions.

Assuming you have taken the medical route and explored these issues and you are still depressed, who can help you? Your clergy may be good at discussing these problems. Don’t be embarrassed if you are not active in the religion. Make an appointment and meet with him or her. Meanwhile consider going to weekly services, attending study sessions, or meeting with other seniors at the religious institution of your choice.

Begin an exercise program. Most cell phones can measure the mileage you walk. Begin to park farther away from the grocery store. Walk around the block. Take the dog for more walks. Aim for a mile a day and when you accomplish that, consider how you feel. If you feel a bit more cheerful, try more walking.

Find someone to walk with or go to a gym. When you’re at the gym, talk to people around you. Suggest going out to lunch. Exercise and social interaction should be two approaches to depression.

There are many free or inexpensive entertainment venues in the Mohawk Valley.

Look into MVILR (Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement). Classes are held at SUNY-Poly especially for senior citizens.

Read a local newspaper every day. If you don’t subscribe, go to the library every day and read the paper. It is a much better way to keep up than watching television. In fact, it is a good idea to turn off the television and stop playing computer games. Also, alcohol is not a good cure for depression, in fact it may make you feel worse.

Helping other is a wonderful way to cheer up. Volunteer at the Refugee Center or at a nearby nursery school. Volunteer at your religious institution. Babysit your grandchildren. 

If these self-help approaches have not worked or if you cannot motivate yourself to try them, ask your doctor to refer you for counseling.

A good counselor will help you determine if you are depressed and what you can do. The social worker may refer you back to your doctor for medication. Or a psychiatrist may be the best choice.