Depression in Aging
Wellness & Prevention

Depression & Anxiety are Common In Adults 60+, but Mental Health Care Isn’t

Seniors Aren’t Really Seniors Anymore

The word “senior” has become a way to describe anyone over the age of 65 who gets Medicare. It’s an easy way to group an age range that is growing larger as we are living longer. But “senior” has become a negative description for someone who is “old”. If you are in your 60s or older, you may no longer feel “old” in the same way you once thought of your own grandparents when they were the same age. You may literally look younger than people at your age used to look. You are likely quite active. You are likely caring for a parent. You may want to postpone retirement. 

The Great Loss

But something that happens to all of us when we age, is that eventually there is loss. Sure, loss can happen at any point in our lives. There is just a really big difference in the loss we face at older ages. At some age, there is a large loss. There is the loss of a career that eventually happens. There is the possible loss of a house and need to move. More physical disabilities creep up that can restrict what’s possible. And then there is a loss of loved ones. Some may experience a flood of funerals within a short time.

How We Treat It

When anyone faces this type of enormous loss, depression and anxiety are common. Sheila Hunt, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Director of Business Development at CenterPointe Hospital, says this is their main diagnosis for older patients.

Depression and anxiety can be confusing. I could say I’m “depressed” and it’s because I feel glum that my day isn’t going as expected. Or I could say I’m feeling “anxious” because I’m nervous before I give a presentation. They don’t seem like serious problems.

But then there’s anxiety that makes it impossible to sleep well. And there’s depression that takes away the desire to leave home. When these go untreated, psychiatric hospitals begin to see many of their older patients for the following reasons.

Self-Medicating

This becomes worse if it develops into a drug addiction

  • Using alcohol to get to sleep
  • Using alcohol to reduce pain
  • Overusing medication for other health problems to treat depression and anxiety

Suicide

The highest suicide rate is for men above 75 years old. The second highest rate is for men ages 45-64. For every suicide, there are 25 attempts 



Professional Help

Depression and anxiety, like most health conditions, are easier to treat when caught at an early stage. These are health conditions that can be diagnosed and treated by any type of therapist. Some primary care doctors even do a basic screening to help you get started. Your primary care doctor may have good referrals for a therapist for you to see.

Psychiatric hospitals provide inpatient and outpatient programs for those with more severe cases of depression and anxiety. For someone who has attempted suicide or has a drug addiction, psychiatric care is more appropriate for treatment.

Get Started. 

A Depression Checklist

National Alliance on Mental Illness resources