Senior loneliness and depression

Are Depression and Loneliness Connected With Aging?

For many elderly seniors, age is just a number. Many are living life to the fullest, taking advantage of everything life at this age has to offer. Building new friendships, traveling around the world, regular golf and tennis outings, family gatherings, etc. But this isn’t the case for every member of the elderly population. In fact, research indicates that as a society, we are lonelier than ever before. This is especially true of the elderly population. There are no accurate estimates on the number of elderly persons experiencing loneliness and depression, but the number is high and it’s getting higher.

So what’s contributing to this growing epidemic and is there anything that can be done about it?

 

Factors Contributing to Loneliness & Depression

Loss of spouse – Many elderly seniors are living alone for the first time in many years as a result of losing a spouse.

Extended family (children, grandchildren, cousins, etc.) live in another state – More people are moving for jobs and/or better quality of life.

Socioeconomic status – Some people just don’t have the financial means to travel the world or live out their retirement years in an active senior living community full of amenities.

Health related – Conditions like arthritis, urinary incontinence, tiredness, side-effects from medication, etc. can all lead to an inactive social life. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, a person’s physical health is a major cause of depression in late life. This may be due to several factors including:

  • The psychological effects of living with an illness and disability
  • The effects of chronic pain
  • The biological effects of some conditions and medications that can cause depression through direct effects on the brain
  • The social restrictions that some illnesses place upon life-style resulting in isolation and loneliness

Unfortunately, the loneliness and depression associated with health issues can often lead to even more and sometimes bigger health issues.

Loss of close friends and lack of desire to create new friends – Social isolation can lead to feelings of emptiness and depression.

Fear of driving – As we age, it’s common to have more anxiety about driving, especially on the freeways. Let’s face it, reaction time and eyesight aren’t what they used to be and hopping on the freeway or a busy road to visit a friend, go to the mall or head to the community center isn’t as appealing as it once was.

Moving to a new neighborhood or apartment as a result of downsizing – Many of the elderly experiencing loneliness and depression have had to downsize due to financial reasons or the inability to handle the upkeep of a larger home. This can lead to more loneliness as a result of moving away from friends, experiencing unfamiliarity with their surroundings, etc.

 

These are not the only reasons for the increasing rate of loneliness and depression among the elderly population, but they are prime contributors. There are things that can be done to help, but it takes some effort on the part of the individual. Many cities have free regular classes and activities for seniors, but they don’t do much good if the person doesn’t have the ability to get there. See if these places offer transportation or look into Uber. Uber has opened up a world of possibilities for seniors stuck at home. For more on Uber and senior transportation, go here.

Here are some other ways to combat loneliness:

Adopt a pet – Check with reputable local shelters to ask if they have any specific pet adoption programs geared specifically toward seniors.

Start a blog – Starting a blog is a relatively easy, inexpensive and fun way to pass time. The great thing about blogs is that you can blog about anything you know about. Many seniors like to write blogs on cooking, family, travel, hobbies, books, etc. The list is endless. Blogging also provides a way to interact with other people who have the same interests.

Find a new hobby – It’s never too late to start a new hobby. With all of the “how to” videos now available on YouTube, it’s easier than ever before to learn something new.

Volunteer – For mobile elderly seniors, volunteering is a great way to get out and meet new people. Volunteering opportunities can be easily found online.

Start a neighborhood club – If the community has a community center, talk with the community manager to see if there is an opportunity to put up a flyer and host the club at the community center.

 

Whatever you decide to do either for yourself or on behalf of someone you know, it’s important to do something. Loneliness isn’t going to go away by ignoring it, and if left ignored, it can lead to even more serious issues.

 

Paget’s Disease of the Bone – What is it?

Paget’s disease is a slow-progressing, relatively uncommon condition which causes the body to generate new bone faster than normal. Over the regular course of our lives, our bodies go through a process known as “bone remodeling”, where new bone tissue (ossification) gradually replaces older bone tissue (bone resorption). This transfer of tissue helps maintain normal calcium levels in our blood. In adults, this bone replacement normally occurs at a rate of about 10% per year.

Because Paget’s disease causes your body to generate new bone faster than normal, the new bone tissue is softer and weaker than normal bone and often abnormally shaped, which can lead to bone pain, arthritis, pinched-nerves, deformities, fractures and even hearing loss. The disease most often impacts the spine, legs, pelvis and skull. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Paget’s disease impacts approximately 2 to 3% of the population over the age of 55. Men are more often affected than women.

 

Paget’s Disease Symptoms

It is often difficult to know if you have Paget’s disease as many people with the condition do not exhibit any symptoms. For those that do experience symptoms, the most common complaint is bone pain. The disease is often discovered when given x-rays for another reason. An abnormal alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test can also be an indicator of the disease. High levels of ALP found through routine blood-work can indicate liver disease or bone disorders.

 

What Causes Paget’s?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of Paget’s disease of bone is unknown. It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disease. If you are diagnosed with Paget’s disease, your doctor will recommend the best course of treatment which may include osteoporosis medications.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and is it real?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic fatigue syndrome is a serious, long-term illness which has the potential to affect multiple systems within the body. The condition is characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest and is estimated to affect approximately 1 million Americans.

The challenges of this condition or disorder begin with the diagnosis itself. There is no single test available that will make the determination as to whether or not a person has chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Many of the symptoms associated with CFS such as fatigue, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, inability to concentrate, etc., can also be associated with other diseases and conditions. In order to determine if a person has CFS, doctors first need to rule our other potential health problems.

Another challenge associated with CFS, is that there is no known cause. Some experts believe the onset of the condition may be associated with a viral infection or possibly psychological stress. Others believe CFS may be brought on by a weakened immune system, hormonal imbalances or a combination of factors and events. No one knows for sure.

Treating CFS presents yet another challenge as symptoms can differ with each individual affected. There is currently no known cure or FDA-approved treatments for CFS, so doctors usually focus on management of individual symptoms to improve quality of life.READ MORE

Organization helping seniors – Honor Flight Network

Honor Flight Network is a national non-profit organization that recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them for free to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial, which may include either the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. For these veterans who are selected for the trip, seeing the memorial and reflecting on their experiences during the war is very emotional event which would not be possible without the help of the Honor Flight Network.

This trip is the only opportunity that many veterans will have to see their respective memorial. Especially those veterans who served in WWII. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. For this reason, the Honor Flight Network gives top priority to World War II survivors, along with those other Veterans who may be terminally ill. Subsequent to the World War II veterans, efforts will then focus on our Korean War and then Vietnam War veterans, honoring them similarly. In fact, some Honor Flight hubs are now accepting applications from Korean and Vietnam Veterans.

The Honor Flight Network was co-founded in 2007 by Earl Morse, the son of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, and Jeff Miller, a small business owner and son of a WWII veteran. Both men were concerned that WWII veterans would never get the chance visit the new memorial which opened to the public in 2004. In just over 10 years of existence, the Honor Flight Network has grown to encompass 140 regional hubs across the United States and has escorted more than 200,000 veterans to Washington D.C. at no cost to see their memorials.

If you are a Veteran (or close to someone who is) and would like to find out more about the Honor Flight Network or would like to fill out an application to participate in the program, please visit the Honor Flight Network website or call 937-521-2400.

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