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Depression Management for Older Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about depression?

Depression is a condition that causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness that do not go away. You may lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Depression is not a normal part of aging. Treatment is very important and can help improve your daily life.

What causes or increases my risk for depression?

Depression may be caused by changes in brain chemicals that affect your mood. Your risk for depression may be higher if you have any of the following:

  • Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, retirement, or the need to move into a care facility
  • A family history of depression
  • A chronic medical condition, such as heart disease or cancer
  • Loss of physical strength or mobility
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

  • Appetite changes, or weight gain or loss
  • Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or withdrawn
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, discouraged, or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering things, doing daily tasks, or making decisions
  • Thoughts about hurting or killing yourself

How is depression diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how long you have had them. He or she will ask if you have any family members with depression. Tell your healthcare provider about any stressful events in your life. He or she may ask about any other health conditions or medicines you take.

How is depression treated?

  • Therapy is often used together with medicine. Therapy is a way for you to talk about your feelings and anything that may be causing depression. Therapy can be done alone or in a group. It may also be done with family members or a significant other.
  • Antidepressant medicine may be given to relieve depression. You may need to take this medicine for several weeks before you begin to feel better. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects or problems you have with your medicine. The type or amount of medicine may need to be changed. Also tell your provider about other medicines you take. This will help him or her recommend the right kind for you. Tell your provider if you need help creating a medicine schedule or reminders to take your medicines.

What can I do to manage depression?

  • Connect with others. Connection can help after loss, especially on holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries. You may want to tutor a young student or volunteer at a local organization. You may also be able to find groups that participate in activities or interests you enjoy. Your religious or spiritual organization may offer activities you can participate in. It may also help to talk with your religious or spiritual leader about how you are feeling.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can lift your mood, increase energy, and make it easier to sleep. If you have balance problems or other physical limits, your healthcare provider can help you create a safe exercise plan. You may enjoy a group exercise class, or a friend may be able to exercise with you.
    Chair Exercises for Seniors
  • Ask about equipment to increase your comfort and mobility. Examples are hearing aids, glasses, large print books, and walkers. These can help you enjoy activities and feel more independent.
  • Continue taking medicine and going to therapy. Medicine and therapy can help. It may take some time before you start to feel better. Talk to your healthcare providers if you notice any change in your depression.
  • Seek help for drug or alcohol abuse, if needed. Drugs and alcohol can make depression worse. Your healthcare providers can give you information if you need help quitting.

The following resources are available at any time to help you, if needed:

  • Contact a suicide prevention organization:
    • For the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
      • Call or text 988
      • Send a chat on
      • Call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
    • For the Suicide Hotline, call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
  • For a list of international numbers:

Where can I find more support or more information?

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100
    Arlington , VA 22203
    Phone: 1- 703 - 524-7600
    Phone: 1- 800 - 950-6264
    Web Address:
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Phone: 1- 800 - 988
    Web Address: OR

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You think about harming yourself or someone else.
  • You have done something on purpose to hurt yourself.

When should I call my therapist or doctor?

  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.