Adults of any age may show signs and symptoms of depression. Signs and symptoms of depression may increase as adults age due to an increase in chronic conditions and a decrease in mobility or body functions. However, it is important to note that depression itself is not a normal part of aging. The CDC reports that most seniors who are depressed are underdiagnosed and undertreated, which means that more seniors are experiencing feelings of sadness, sleep disturbances, or other effects that come from depression.
For those caring for seniors, it is important to approach both diagnosed and undiagnosed depression from many angles. Besides the clinical side of depression treatment, like prescription medications and psychotherapy, there is also plenty to be said about healthy socialization and life enrichment opportunities. Here are a few ways to put some good moments into a senior’s day through life enrichment activities and events.
1. Focus on the Physical
The body releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in our brain, when we exercise. Moving around, whether walking, stretching, or lifting light weights, is bound to make us feel a bit better. Getting up and getting moving can feel especially hard for someone who is depressed, so it’s important to offer patient, kind encouragement.
2. Add Some Music
For many of us, music can be a mood changer and a memory maker. Tap into music throughout your living space, utilizing music in the hallways, dining room, living areas, and on trips. Talk about what music might be linked with happy memories and feelings, or is uplifting and use that to create a positive mood and atmosphere.
Research suggests that music can be a particular help for seniors experiencing cognitive decline. Playing or singing familiar tunes can help defuse stressful situations and orient a depressed or confused senior.
3. Get Outside
Fresh air can do a lot for mood, and it doesn’t take a lot of it to produce an effect. Plan events and programs that take place outside on a patio, front porch, or garden to coax seniors to enjoy the great outdoors. Even if weather makes it impossible for you to be outside, consider visiting a botanical garden or greenhouse for a little taste of nature.
4. Choose Different Activity Times
Some of us feel better in the mornings, while some feel more apt to participate in life enrichment activities in the evening. Excellent activity programs within senior living communities will offer events and programs throughout the day, which can maximize chances of getting everyone involved. Help build a schedule around the times when your parent or loved one feels best in order to maximize the impact of those activities.
5. Choose Gatherings of Appropriate Size
Not everyone is an extrovert who loves large group gatherings. For some seniors, large groups can be distracting or loud, unpleasant and unnerving. When choosing group activities, look for programs with settings and configurations that make socialization pleasant without being overwhelming or lonely. Good examples for introverts include scrapbooking get-togethers , book clubs, or art classes.
Of course, the opposite is true for someone who is energized by socialization. For these seniors, a more active and social activity such as a dance class or game club is likely a better choice.
6. Take a Trip
It can make anyone a bit stir crazy if they feel cooped up in their apartment or senior living community. Life enrichment bus trips can be a wonderful thing for seniors to look forward to and participate in life throughout the greater community, as can road trips with family members, scenic tours, or visits to relatives or famous places.
7. Be Patient
Depression makes it hard to do things, accept invitations, or take pleasure in life. However, a caring staff member who insists on at least asking each time can make major strides in trust and relationship building for that resident. Stick with it; when the resident finally attends a program, it will be a huge win for everyone involved.
Depression is best treated with a multidisciplinary approach that includes medical interventions where appropriate, alongside quality of life improvements and life enrichment opportunities. Be sure to encourage your aging loved one to take advantage of each one.