a retired couple spends time together for their golden years

Have the Golden Years Lost their Luster? Depression Could be to Blame

Getting older brings new opportunities and new challenges – but depression should not be one of them.

Is retirement feeling less like a vacation and more like a loss? Is the house feeling emptier than you thought it would after the kids left home? If you’re feeling adrift in your golden years, you are not alone.

In the U.S., it is estimated that more than seven million people 65-years and older struggle with depression, a condition sometimes dismissed as a part of aging. The reality is that depression is a mental health issue that is not a normal occurrence at any age, and requires specialised treatment. 

Recognising Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Clinical depression is a common but serious mental health disorder that can impact nearly every aspect of a person’s life. It differs from normal feelings of sadness or grief in its persistence and its impacts on daily activities. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Ongoing feelings of sadness, despair, or emptiness
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Lack of interest in sex, social activities, or hobbies
  • Lack of motivation or energy
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep, insomnia, or oversleeping
  • Slowed movement or speech
  • Memory impairment

Depression and the Older Generation

Some older people may deny being depressed because they don’t feel sad. In these situations, other complaints are typically present, such as: 

  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of motivation
  • Physical ailments
  • Apathy
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety

Others might be in a grieving process, and may experience waves of intense sadness. It is both normal and healthy to mourn the loss of a job, physical health, or a loved one. However, if you can no longer feel joy in your life, whether in sharing a good laugh with a friend or appreciating a beautiful day, then you may be struggling with depression.

Common Causes of Depression in the Golden Years

Life’s shifts can induce feelings of stress and sadness, and the process of getting older is generally accompanied by significant changes in work, physical health, and social networks. Events or stressors that may increase the risk of depression include:

Pain, Injury, or Other Health Problems

Aging can bring about new or chronic physical changes that impact the way people engage in their normal activities. If your social life or daily routines are being disrupted by pain, fatigue, or other ailments, this may result in depression.

Loneliness or Isolation

From children leaving home to a lack of a regular work schedule, you might suddenly find yourself in an empty house with far more time than you know how to fill. Reliance on technologies that allow communication without actual physical contact can also heighten a sense of isolation, which can in turn lead to depression.

Anxiety over Finances, Health, or Dying

For some, the anticipation of changes that often accompany aging is a major source of stress. Concerns about the future are common amongst the older generation. However, if worry is overshadowing all aspects of your life, you may be experiencing depression. 

Retirement

Transitioning out of a career or a regular work schedule can be unexpectedly challenging.  Work often provides people with a sense of purpose and a clear weekly routine, and you may feel bored, lonely, or unfocused following retirement, which can contribute to depression.

Loss of Friends or Loved Ones

The loss of a cherished person in your life is devastating, and recovery from grief can take time. If your sadness or emptiness is prolonged, then you may have moved from grief into depression. 

Certain Medical Conditions

Some types of medical conditions may also contribute to depression. This can either be as a direct effect of the condition, or as a psychological response to the problems it may cause. This is especially true for chronic conditions in which people are regularly experiencing pain or disability. Some conditions that can cause depression include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Vascular Illness
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke

Additionally, some medications list depression as a potential side effect. Due to normal changes in metabolism during aging, older adults may become more sensitive to this. It is important to discuss your medications with a doctor, particularly when taking multiple prescriptions. 

Navigating Out of Depression: Steps Towards a New Outlook

If you feel you are struggling with depression, acknowledging and addressing the condition is critical in ultimately finding greater fulfillment and joy. Next steps involve making active progress in tackling factors that contribute to depression, such as loneliness, lack of activity, and a loss of purpose.  

Making changes can feel overwhelming and exhausting at first, particularly if you are depressed. This is why it is important to focus on the achievement of small, attainable steps for recovery.  

Step 1: Build Connections

Depression thrives in isolation, and so venturing out into the world and making connections with family members, friends, or the community is a necessity. Going to a park, museum, the grocery store, or a shopping mall can provide important face-to-face contact and stimulation of the senses. Social activities such as taking classes or joining a club can also help reawaken your interests and build new friendships. 

Step 2: Live Healthily

Healthy habits are always important, improving both length and quality of life. Prioritising movement and exercise, getting enough sunlight, eating nutritious foods, and establishing good sleep habits all trigger positive responses in the brain that can counteract the effects of depression. 

Step 3: Rediscover Purpose

Your sense of purpose can be deeply shaken by major life changes like retirement, children leaving the home, and struggles with physical health.  However, these changes can also open space to rediscover purpose in new and exciting ways. This could include volunteering for a local group, or learning a new skill. Many people also find that travel offers abundant opportunities for new experiences, interactions, and revelations.

Step 4: Know When to Access Outside Support

People living with depression may feel overwhelmed by the challenges they are facing, making it impossible to take steps towards recovery. This is a good indicator that professional support is needed in order to successfully overcome depression. Depression is a serious but treatable condition, and there are many benefits to seeking the assistance of seasoned mental health specialists.

Travel and Treatment: Finding Joy in Far Places

Starting a journey of recovery can be tremendously difficult when you’re surrounded by stressors or elements that contribute to your depression. An overseas depression retreat could be instrumental in sparking a positive mental shift – offering both a  change of scene and a strong professional support system.  

The Dawn in Thailand, offers a world-class boutique wellness centre, where you’ll be able to focus solely on your needs in a beautiful setting with a supportive team whose primary goal is to help you return to a healthy, happy life.  

Seeing the Light: Overcoming Depression at The Dawn

Getting to the source of your sadness is a critical starting point in a life free of depression.  The Dawn will help guide you in addressing the causes of your depression, and finding healthy solutions that will ultimately lead to feelings of satisfaction, fulfillment and joy. Licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health and offering 24-hour onsite medical care, The Dawn offers a safe and soothing environment for your healing.

We’ll create an individual treatment plan designed to fit your exact needs and maximise your time spent with us. You’ll work with a therapist both individually and in a group setting, where many participants forge lasting friendships. We also offer holistic wellness services to promote mind-body healing, including massage, yoga, meditation, and fitness training. 

A Depression Rehab Far from Stressors, Easy to Access

The Dawn is the best place for inpatient treatment for both addiction and mental health treatments in Thailand.

The Dawn is located in the serene beauty of Northern Thailand, just a short drive from Chiang Mai International Airport, but a world away from the stressors of life at home. We can help you with travel arrangements and provide airport pick-ups to ensure a smooth, easy trip to our idyllic centre.

Some may be concerned about cultural differences and the language barrier for countries where the first language is not English. At The Dawn, our staff speak fluent English, and all our psychotherapists have been clinically trained in the West. Thai culture is warm, friendly and welcoming, and at The Dawn we provide unparalleled service and care to our exclusive group of clients. 

Longer lives bring greater opportunities for personal fulfillment, skill development, and critical contributions to society. If you’re ready to explore all the possibilities that the golden years have to offer, contact The Dawn for more information on how you can live a life free from depression, and full of joy.