Ask the Expert: Preventing Depression in Seniors

Lynn Northrop, PhD, a clinical psychologist affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, answers frequently asked questions about how to prevent depression in seniors.

What can I do to prevent depression?
Simply pay attention to the words that you use when you talk to yourself, when you think or when you talk to other people. Inaccurate thinking is common among people who are depressed. For example, using overgeneralizations like, "She never calls me" or "I never get what I want," those are global statements that are probably inaccurate. Accurate thinking, "She doesn't call me as often as I'd like her to" or "I didn't get what I want this time." Those are accurate statements and they are going to have a beneficial impact on your psychological health. 

Are there lifestyle changes I cane make to prevent depression?
Staying socially active is an important part of maintaining your psychological health. Staying physically active is also very important in maintaining your psychological health. People who exercise are less likely to be depressed. It could be going for a 10-minute walk twice a week.

Is there anything else I can do?
Doing new things is good for your brain. This can mean if you always done crossword puzzles, then switch to Sudoku, or if you always worn your watch on your left wrist, then move it to your right wrist. That kind of stimulation to your brain of a novel activity is good for your brain and it's good for your psychological health. Variety is also important in the sense that you have some things that you do regularly that you can do sitting in your chair and other things that require more physical activity.

And then of course, keeping an open mind and being willing to begin something new, some new activities, some new hobby or joy. That's going to be helpful maintaining psychological health as well.  

What should I do if I think I might be depressed?
If you think that you may be depressed or if there's an older adult in your life who you think may be depressed, the best thing to do is to seek out support. If you're looking for more information about depression and aging or about the treatment of depression and aging, you might want to access a primary care provider through Sharp HealthCare and you can do that by calling 1-800-82-SHARP.

Talk to your primary care provider. Let them know that you think you may be depressed. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.