How Depression Affects Older Adults

When people refer to the Golden Years, they’re talking about the time in your life when your kids are grown and having kids of their own, the mortgage has long been paid off, and you’ve retired and can enjoy your time doing the things you never had time for while you were working and raising a family.  It’s supposed to be a time to relax and have fewer worries.  

The Reality for Many

Unfortunately, for many people, The Golden Years are filled with Depression.  Depression is common among the elderly and in fact, 6 million Americans experience Depression later in life (after the age of 65) but only 10% seek treatment for it.  Why? There are several possible reasons.  

The symptoms can be different.  Symptoms for Depression in elderly patients are often different than in younger people.  Many are the same like lack of motivation, difficulty sleeping, hygiene neglect, and low self-worth, but many seniors do not feel the sadness that usually accompanies Depression.   

The symptoms can be confused with medication side effects.  Seniors may be taking medications for other medical issues that have side effects that are the same as the symptoms of Depression.

The symptoms can be confused with other medical conditions.  Symptoms of Depression in older adults include tiredness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, confusion, and attention problems.  Sometimes these symptoms can be confused with Alzheimer’s Disease and other mental conditions that are common to elderly patients.


While Depression is common among older adults, it is not a normal part of the aging process.  The major risk factors for Depression are:

Genes―If there is a history of Depression in your family, you have a greater risk of developing it.

Environment―Conditions you grew up in or are currently living in such as poverty, abuse, and substance dependency can cause symptoms.

Brain  chemistry―Neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine and serotonin regulate your mood.  An imbalance in these chemicals can cause Depression. 

Some risk factors increase as people age:

Grief―As we get older, we lose more people around us.  The death of friends or loved ones can trigger Depression.

Health issues―Even for elderly people who stay in good shape will begin to experience health problems.  These can be difficult to accept. Medical conditions like strokes, heart disease, vitamin deficiencies, and cancer can directly cause Depression as well.  Finding yourself taking care of your spouse as their health degenerates can also be distressing.

Medications―There are many medications that can cause symptoms of Depression especially when taken with other medications.  Aging bodies have more difficulty metabolizing medications, and ones like beta-blockers, blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, tranquilizers, arthritis drugs, and others commonly prescribed to seniors together are known to cause Depression. 

Loneliness―Often, elderly people become more isolated.  It could be because they can’t drive anymore or family doesn’t come to visit as often as they used to or they’ve had to move into an assisted living facility.  Whatever the cause, loneliness can be a big trigger for Depression.

Other struggles―Older adults who may have had financial security throughout their adult lives may now find that they’re struggling to live on a fixed income. 


Depression in elderly patients can impede their healing from medical issues so it’s important to have Depression diagnosed and treated.  Treatment for Depression usually starts with psychotherapy and if the doctor or therapist recommends it, antidepressants are prescribed. Antidepressants work by helping the brain to make the right connections to regulate mood properly.  They can be highly effective and be the right solution for many people.

However, sometimes antidepressants don’t work or the right combination of them to be effective can’t be found.  For people who have been unable to find antidepressants that work, there is another solution.

TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation uses strong magnets like those found in MRI machines to stimulate the area of the brain associated with Depression, the prefrontal cortex.  The treatment is non-invasive and side effects are generally mild and TMS can provide real relief from symptoms of Depression without the use of drugs.  

Your Golden Years don’t have to include Depression.  If you’re struggling with Depression and can’t find antidepressants that work, Gateway TMS is here to help.     

At Gateway TMS, we use state-of-the-art equipment in a relaxed atmosphere to help our patients achieve the best outcome possible―relief or even total remission from their symptoms of Depression.  We’re one of the leading providers of TMS treatments for symptoms of Depression in the St. Louis area. Call us today at (314)909-8487 and find out if TMS is right for you.