While Depression is common across the entire Australian population, older people are subject to higher levels of contributing factors such as physical illness or the loss of loved ones.
While anxiety and depression is on par with general population, this can rise to as high as 35% of people in nursing homes.
As an older person, we typically view anxiety and depression as a weakness or character flaw rather than a genuine health condition.
We are also reluctant to share our feelings of anxiety or depression because of the stigma and keep it bottled up until it reaches crisis point.
Luckily help is available and with the right treatment most older people make a full recovery.
Anxiety in older people can often be difficult to spot as it may develop gradually. They may start trying to avoid objects or situations that trigger anxiety or start to develop rituals in a bid to relieve anxiety. Also being easily startled or displaying difficulty in making decisions or not being assertive and making eye contact are some symptoms that a person is anxious.
Anxiety will leave an older person feeling fear, overwhelm & worry or even dread of perfectly normal objects or situations. This leaves them in a constant tense nervous state and may even manifest as overwhelming panic.
They will find it hard to stop worrying and may experience upsetting dreams or flashbacks of a traumatic event. They may also feel they are being constantly judged or are losing their mind.
Severely anxious people may start to display physical symptoms like
Racing heart, nausea or vomiting, muscle tension or pain, sweating, shaking, insomnia, numbness, hot or cold flushes and may also feel detached from their self or their surroundings.
Depression may be present in an older person if they have been feeling sad, down or miserable for more than a couple of weeks.
Older people tend to present with more physical symptoms than an overall feeling of sadness. Sleep problems or “nerves” might be a reason an older person seeks help as opposed to feeling down or sad.
If you are showing signs of slowing down or restlessness, neglecting self care, withdrawing from family or friends, displaying confusion, you’re worried or agitated a lot of the time, not finding pleasure in the things you used to enjoy, or denying depressive feelings as defence mechanism, then the chances are you are suffering some scale of depression.
In this state your thoughts might turn to lost self esteem, life is not worth living or that you’ve lost your position or status within your family. Persistent thoughts of suicide or self harm may also surface at this time.
Bad moods, irritability to the point of anger, sadness, hopelessness, overwhelm or feeling worthless are all non physical manifestations of depression. Unusual sleep patterns, feeling tired all the time, slowed movement, memory problems, change of appetite, significant weight changes, pacing and hand wringing may all indicate the presence of depression.
As it is with any age, if you think you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or depression, reach out for help.
You will find organisations and options on our “Local Contacts” page.
In a lot of older people, loneliness and the lack of social interaction is a major contributing factor to depression
Being connected to others be that family, friends or the community is an important safeguard against anxiety and depression.
Loneliness isn’t an inevitable part of growing older. There are lots of things you can do expand and strengthen your social connections as the years advance.
Catching up with family or friends for a meal and a chat is a great start. If this is difficult, then events like “Eating With Friends” run by Deloraine House once a month is somewhere you can enjoy a meal and meet new people in a relaxed informal environment.
Interest groups and clubs are another great opportunity to stay connected to like minded people or the local community. These can include hobbies and crafts, fitness, cooking, cultural or sports clubs, car clubs etc. Deloraine House has an events calendar with lots of events and activities to get involved with. The Meander Valley Gazette also publishes an extensive list upcoming community events that you can attend or get involved with.
Joining a service club is also a great way to stay connected with the community and the activities these clubs engage in are a great source of satisfaction and self worth. Doing great things for others while generally having a good time is a good way to make lifelong friends and social connections.
Beyond Blue publish a book called “Connection Matters” this outlines the research on why maintaining social connections is an important thing to do and outlines a plan of attack on how to go about it.