Feeling depressed as you turn 60 and beyond, can be a normal part of aging. As you age, you may have to re-frame your thinking about what is important in life. This can require some soul searching.
People age 65 and older are the fastest growing part of the U.S. population. It turns out that a positive view of life is linked to positive health outcomes as you age.
Depression can negatively affect your physical health and ability to function. Some late-life problems that can result in feeling depressed and anxious include coping with physical health problems, caring for a spouse with dementia or a physical disability, grieving the death of loved ones, and managing conflict with family members.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide. Symptoms of depression may include loss of interest, hopelessness and helplessness. It turns out that more than half of all Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) occur in individuals who experience their first MDE later in life.
Depression is linked to increased cortisol levels. If you are depressed, you may exhibit a perceived state of anxiety and feelings of fear.
How you feel emotionally can be effected by how you think about your age. Ask yourself, how old to I feel? How old do I look? What am I doing and what are my interests? If you are doing a lot and have many interests, this might help you feel and stay feeling ‘younger’, no matter your actual age.
How You Deal With Losses and Feeling Depressed
Think about what your goals are. Do you need to establish new goals? If so, you might have to let go of some of your past pursuits and pursue new activities. Feeling depressed is normal as you experience loss and grief. You might have to disengage from things that no longer serve you.
The purpose of grief is to help you move through the loss so you can start to do something new. If you feeling depressed, allow yourself to grieve these losses. When you are ready, you can move on to whatever is next.
It’s useful to take a look at what the phases of Late Adulthood are. This will give you a road map for navigating this time of life.
Erik Erikson’s Stage of Late Adulthood
In the 1950s, Erik Erikson proposed eight stages of development that we progress through in life. The last, or 8th, stage is called Late Adulthood.
This stage is characterized by the back and forth feelings of integrity versus despair. If you are feeling depressed, you could very well be dealing with despair.
During this phase, older adults reflect on the life they have lived. The goal is to have integrity, which means to eventually feel fulfilled, accepting and content with the life you have lived and age proudly.
Feeling Depressed, Dealing With Despair
This means dealing with your feelings of despair. If you have disappointments and regrets, you can fall into feeling depressed. Despair refers to looking back on your life and ruminating over your mistakes, feeling that your life was wasted.
Many people have to work through these feelings of despair in order to look back on their lives with a sense of acceptance, peace and success. Therapy is a great way to facilitate this process. As you move into integrity, you can accept your mistakes and start to realize that you can develop wisdom from your many positive and negative experiences.
Letting Go Of Striving, Competing and Wanting
This stage begins with feelings of mortality and can lead to less focus on self and more concern for others. Letting go of needless social conventions creates openness and looking forward to new opportunities. You can then withhold judgements or advice when someone seeks you out to discuss their dilemmas.
There is an increased understanding and appreciation of wealth versus freedom and happiness. This refers to living within your means by maintaining enough for the basic necessities of life without the necessity of needing, wanting or competing for more.
Gene Cohen Identifies Four Stages of Older Adulthood
A lot has changed since Erikson proposed an Older Adult stage. His stages ended at 50, but now that is no longer considered old.
Gene Cohen was a student of Erikson. Cohen identifies four stages of older adulthood. He says that aging is not negative. The idea that it is a decline of body and mind is old fashioned. Quite the contrary, your brain is still changing and growing all the way through late adulthood. Take a look at Cohen’s 2006 book, The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain.
We know that the brain can grown new brain cells at any age. Also, older people are more efficient at using both sides of their brains. This results in more balance between being analytical and intuitive.
The last three phases out of the four of Cohens’ model are the most applicable to older adults. Phase I is considered midlife, ages 35 to 65. Then, Phase II starts in the mid 50s and lasts through the mid 70s.
Phase II and Feeling Depressed
This phase is the time of retirement, so you will be looking at new ways to use your time. You can do the things you’ve always wanted to do. So you might be more willing to take some risks and try new things. This can be very liberating, especially if you are feeling depressed.
Your brain is also growing and changing. In some parts of the brain, new neurons are growing, and the density of some regions are peeking! This increases brain communication, so it’s a perfect time to make some changes in your life and challenge yourself. This will help with feeling depressed.
Time for some change! You can let go of the constant striving and questing of midlife. You move into a more liberated state of mind.
In Phase III, you want to start sharing your wisdom and find new meaning in life. This starts in the late 60s and goes through the 80s. You will probably want to start sharing your life story, since the brains capacity for this increases. There is more integration between the left and right sides of the brain, which causes you to look back and review your life.
You will start to feel like you want to pass down wisdom to the younger generation. This helps you find renewed meaning in life.
You want to reminisce about childhood and to give back. Volunteer work and making the world a better place become important. If you are feeling depressed, having a purpose will really help.
Phase IV encompasses the late 70s until the end of life. Your brain is still growing making new neurons, dendrites and synapses. So, it’s important to continue being physically and mentally stimulated.
You will continue the need to sum up your life, reflect and celebrate. Your depth of experience will give an added dimension of wisdom to your thinking. This last phase is marked by continued engagement and interest in life!
Neurofeedback can really help if you are feeling depressed. EMDR might also be helpful as you work through and look back on midlife. Therapy can be really important as you move through the phases of older adulthood. If you think I can help, feel free to reach out by email email@example.com or phone 310-314-6933.