LaVona Traywick, Ph.D.
Depression in the Elderly
The difficult changes that many older adults face—such
as the death of a spouse, loss of independence, and health
problems—can lead to depression, especially in those
without a strong support system. But depression is NOT
a normal or necessary part of aging.
Depression symptoms such as aches and pains and
fatigue are often overlooked in the elderly. This is
dangerous because depression increases the risk of
illness, death, and suicide. It is important to learn how to
spot and treat depression in older adults.
What is Depression?
According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common mental disorder that
presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth,
disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become
chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual's ability to take care of
his or her everyday responsibilities.
Common Causes of Depression
• Unresolved, repressed traumatic
• Previous history of depression
• Damage to body image
• Fear of death
• Frustration with memory loss
• Difficulty adjusting to
• Substance abuse
• Loneliness, isolation
• Being unmarried (especially if
• Recent bereavement
• Lack of a supportive social network
• Decreased mobility due to illness or
loss of driving privileges
• Inherited tendencies toward
• Co-occurring illness
• Vascular changes in the brain
• Vitamin B-12 deficiency
• Chronic or severe pain
• Low self-esteem
• Extreme dependency
Symptoms of Depression
It is not unusual for senior adults to experience sadness, social isolation, and lonel