Mindful Aging: Don't Let Depression Get You Down

Mindful Aging: Don’t Let Depression Get You Down

 If you’re 65 or older and feeling depressed, you are not alone. Statistically, one out of every 17 people in your age group is suffering from depression right now. Plus, social isolation appears to be a growing health threat for older adults. That number could be even higher when you consider that more than two-thirds of seniors don’t understand depression. Keep reading for ways to spot the signs and how to find help to get you over the hurdle.

 What is depression?

 Depression is a type of mental illness that is characterized by extreme sadness. LiveScience explains that some of the symptoms include irritability, trouble concentrating, insomnia, and body aches. Unfortunately, the symptoms are common in older adults for many different reasons. This can make it difficult to determine if you are depressed or if you have physical health problems. Talk to your doctor, who can help you rule out any underlying conditions.

 Finding a therapist

Medicare offers benefits for many types of therapy and counseling. However, your choice of providers may be limited, and you will be responsible for copays and a percent of Medicare’s cost. If you have selected a Medicare Advantage plan, your benefits may be more extensive, and you may pay less out of pocket for your therapy services. Check with your plan administrator to find a therapist; Psychology Today also lists Medicare therapists in Santa Monica, but you will need to call to confirm before scheduling an appointment.

 Mitigating the contributing factors

 There are many factors that contribute to senior depression. One of these is a lack of exercise. When we retire, it is easy to think that it is time for nothing but relaxation. Changing your mindset to view exercise as part of your healthy routine can give your brain and body back much of what it needs to stay healthy and happy. In fact, just 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity each day can stave off depression in the short- and long-term. You don’t have to go to the gym, and gardening, walking, and even cleaning your house all count toward your time as long as you get your heart rate up. Other senior-friendly exercises are listed here. It is important to note that you will also need to discuss your intended physical activities with your doctor before launching headfirst into a new fitness routine.

 Poor overall physical health also plays a part. If you are overweight, for example, you are less likely to reap the benefits of exercise. Similarly, if you have problems with your oral health or vision, this can take a toll on your mental well-being. (Most Medicare Advantage plans cover dental and vision care.)

 Loneliness is another factor that contributes to depression and, as Sixy+Me’s Margaret Manning explains, having an enriching social life in your later years is essential. The company we keep has a significant influence on our mental state. If your social circle has dwindled, look for ways to make new friends, keeping in mind that there are almost certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of other seniors in your area also looking for new connections. Visit your local community center, take a pottery class, or look online for groups and organizations of interest to you. You may also try your hand at volunteering, which will give you a social outlet while doing good for your community.

 Round out your mental health improvement plan by prioritizing nutrition. After all, your brain controls the chemicals that determine your happiness level, and the food you eat is directly responsible for your brain. Medicare may even offer benefits for nutrition counseling.

 Your mental health is not something you want to ignore, and you should not let fear of cost get in your way of taking care of your emotions. Medicare can help, and volunteering, exercising, and socializing are free, so the only barrier to getting better is your willingness to admit that there is a problem and to seek help for this invisible disease.

*** Written for Meridian Counseling Gabriel Patel. Gabriel is a blogger with healthwellwise.com. When he isn’t writing, he manages a health food store and enjoys working in his garden and training for his first Ironman.

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