How to Recognize Signs of Depression in Older People

Updated on October 28, 2021

It can be more difficult to recognize signs of depression in older people than in the younger generation. In the past, people have not been as open about their feelings and emotions as they are these days. It can also be difficult to differentiate between the signs of aging and the signs of depression. Here are some ways that you can recognize the signs of depression in the older generation.

Loss of Pleasure

A depressed person will lose pleasure in the things that used to bring them enjoyment. If the elderly patient in your care no longer wants to go out or enjoy the activities that they used to love, this should be treated as an early warning sign.

Lack of Personal Care

Depression is often signified by a loss of personal care. Their home may begin to look uncared for or they do not appear to be taking the same care over their appearance as they used to. This can be caused by depression; however, in the elderly, it may be a sign of physical symptoms such as mobility issues or the onset of dementia. Asking some gentle questions can often help an older person to open up about how they are feeling. 


Emotional responses can be triggered by depression. If the elderly person in your care is more tearful or aggressive than usual, this could be a sign of depression. The older generation often see mental health issues as a sign of weakness. In the past, mental health issues were stigmatized and people didn’t talk about them. The fear of opening about their emotions has stayed with many older people and repressed depression can materialize in other emotions. 

Weight Change

Many people change their weight due to depression and this falls into two different categories. Some people don’t want to eat because they are feeling depressed and can’t be bothered to cook. Other people veer towards foods that are high in sugar or fat at times of distress, which makes them gain weight. A sudden weight change could be regarded as a sign of depression.

Physical Symptoms

Many physical symptoms can cause depression. However, doctors do not often inquire about a person’s mental health when they are treating physical symptoms. If a patient in your care is diagnosed with having Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, this can lead to depression. Likewise, an older person who has had a fall or suffers from mobility issues can become depressed. Often, supporting the physical issue will help alleviate depression. For example, medication can assist with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Mobility advice such as that available from Kneecare Clinics can help them to regain their mobility and stop them from feeling depressed. 

The signs of depression are not so different in older people than they are in the younger generation. However, the difference often lies in getting the older generation to talk about how they are feeling. Show patience and understanding but don’t give up with your patients. Gain their trust and they will eventually open up to you. 

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