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Number of retired adults with depressive disorders is steadily growing

Danie Franco

While technology has made the American worker the most productive in the world, it has also made possible the concept of chronic illness. Wichitans today can live for 40 years or more beyond retirement, when just 50 years ago, you were as likely as not to live past retirement at all. What does this longevity mean for mental illness?

It means that today, there is a reasonable chance that we will stand at the precipice of our golden years with a diagnosis of diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, or other chronic health issues. And if you had other plans for retirement, those diagnoses may come with a depressive disorder as well.

Chronic health issues – combined with the isolation that often accompanies our later years – causes rates of depressive disorders that have been growing steadily in the 65 and older age group. The isolation alone has as much an impact on our physical health and longevity as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes each day. As a result, it is vital to check in on family and friends of this age on a regular basis and keep an eye out for sudden behavioral changes such as eating less, difficulty falling or staying asleep, changes in hygiene habits, or giving away personal items. These behaviors can be interpreted as standard parts of the aging process. And they may be. But if there is un-recognized depression as well, these behaviors may be a sign that the mental illness is exacerbating that process.

Look for opportunities – such as Senior Companion programs – to keep the seniors in your life engaged and active and try to get them to see a therapist at least once a year as part of a regular mental health check-up.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.