When You're Older and Depressed...

Depression among seniors (individuals over age 65) can be somewhat different than depression in the younger population. Although it can be the result of chemical imbalance in the brain or a side-effect of medication, depression in the elderly is most often triggered by circumstances in a person's life. Some common triggers of late-life depression include:
  • Health problems (onset of illness or worsening of existing illness).

  • Loss of independence (no longer able to drive, care for self, etc.)

  • Loss of a close relative or friend.

  • Admission to nursing home.

  • Social isolation, loneliness.

Depression among the elderly can be hard to recognize. Often symptoms--such as decreased appetite or insomnia--are attributed to other health problems or aging in general. It isn't "normal" to feel depressed all the time when you get older; in fact, most older people feel satisfied with their lives. Nonetheless, among people 65 and over, as many as 3 out of 100 suffer from clinical depression. It can be serious and it can even lead to suicide.

But there is good news! Nearly 80% to 90% of people with depression can be treated successfully. Even the most serious depressions usually respond rapidly to treatment. Treatment for elderly persons suffering from depression is similar to treatments for younger people and involves therapy, or medication, or a combination of the two.


There are therapists who are especially experienced and skilled at helping elderly people suffering from depression. Therapy provides a safe, comforting, and confidential setting in which to receive the kind of help and understanding that can best assist in first relieving, then understanding, and finally recovering from the effects of depression. It can take as few as one to two weeks for someone to receive relief from their symptoms with therapy. A senior with depression may receive significant improvement to their depression and overall well-being through group therapy where they can additionally benefit from involvement with a strong support system of peers.


Antidepressant medication is often very helpful in treating cases of depression because of the relatively quick relief it can bring to physical symptoms. Once medication treatment begins, minor improvement is usually seen in one to two weeks and the full effect of relief becomes evident approximately three to four weeks later. Medication therapy is always closely monitored since side effects may be more prevalent for older people. Because many seniors are being treated for other health problems, it is always important their therapist knows what other medications they are taking in order to avoid harmful drug interactions.

Combination of Therapy and Medication

In some cases, neither therapy alone nor medication alone may treat depression as quickly as the patient or therapist would like. For these cases, both types of treatment used together can have very successful results. For those who suffer from chronic depression, combination therapy is especially helpful in dealing with the illness and how it affects their lives.

Link: Find a Therapist