It can be scary to grow old when you have depression. Being susceptible to sudden bouts of sadness or hopelessness is hard enough at any age. But when they occur alongside deteriorating health and concerns about an uncertain future, the combination can be crippling.
Research shows that in general, older adults are happier than young adults. The lifelong prevalence of good mood looks like a U-shaped curve. In between, the stresses of supporting a family and navigating a career contribute to a low of happiness in midlife. But after age 65, increasing symptoms of chronic conditions can trigger depressive episodes.
The number one fear of older adults, according to a recent AARP survey, is Alzheimer’s. Personally, I am more concerned about depression. I would rather be blissfully unaware of my surroundings or circumstances than to feel the weight of major depression while trying to cope with health challenges. Depression can make completing normal daily activities a challenge. So how do people struggling with depression manage when facing new medical issues?
There is hope. Optimism may be an effective counterbalance to depression. Studies show that optimism is associated with positive thinking and having confidence in the face of difficulty. It has been shown to increase resilience.
Optimists, those with the personality trait, have been found to have better health. That’s because they are more likely to take better care of themselves. But it could go further.
Leigh Ann Hubbard writes in a post in the Silver Century blog, “optimism could lead to a healthier immune system, make wounds heal faster and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, among other things.”
You’re not an optimist? There’s still hope. You can learn to become more optimistic. One place to begin is with the writings of Martin P. Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology. His latest book is Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Another tool is collecting and meditating on affirmative statements. “Everything is working together for my good” is an example. Arm yourself with tools that can help you manage depression as you age. It’ll be a brighter tomorrow.