By Kieran C. O’Sullivan

While researching topics to write on this week I came across a very interesting and helpful website on the topic of depression and how it can affect seniors. Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly by Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph. D is one of the main reports in the senior section of the site.

Over the past 16 years in my work with immigration issues, I was always well aware that depression and suicide is an issue in the community. In those years I was associated one way or another with the Irish Pastoral Centre and I was witness to the valuable work of the Chaplains and Nuns who provided comfort and support to the families of those who became depressed and had committed suicide. I would suggest that many lives were saved thanks to the intervention, comfort and counseling provided by Chaplains and Nuns.

I was not always aware of the fact that depression is a serious factor in the lives of many of our senior citizens. The changes that often come in later life—retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, medical problems—can of course lead to depression. The report suggests depression prevents you from enjoying life like you used to. But its effects go far beyond mood. It also impacts your energy, sleep, appetite, and physical health. However, the state depression is not an inevitable part of aging, and there are many steps suggested by experts that people can take to overcome the symptoms, no matter the challenges you face.

According to the report, depression is a common problem in older adults. It suggests the symptoms of depression affect every aspect of your life, including your energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in work, hobbies, and relationships.

Unfortunately, according to the authors of the report, many depressed seniors fail to recognize the symptoms of depression, or don’t take the steps to get the help they need. There are many reasons depression in older adults and the elderly is so often overlooked:

You may assume you have good reason to be down or that depression is just part of aging. You may be isolated—which in itself can lead to depression—with few around to notice your distress. You may not realize that your physical complaints are signs of depression. You may be reluctant to talk about your feelings or ask for help.

No one, young or old, should feel embarrassed or ashamed in any way if they feel they might be suffering from depression. We want people to be aware of the factors above and know they can call Chaplain Fr. John McCarthy or Pastoral Associate Sr. Marguerite Kelly at any time to talk. Everything is confidential.