As a person gets older, more challenges can arise socially, physically, and cognitively. Life becomes different. Health can decline. As one gets older, one tends to experience the loss of a partner or close friend, jobs, maybe even home if one must relocate to a nursing home or move in with family members because of declining health. While many older adults are in great physical and mental health, some do find themselves at an increased risk for ailments and chronic disease with time. This physical decline can also play a role in a person’s mental health.

While retirement is a major celebratory milestone for most, for others, it can mean a loss of social connectedness. Work not only provides them with a means to provide for themselves, it also gives them an outlet to socially engage. Many times, co-workers are the only interaction people have with others throughout the day. Often, colleagues plan activities outside of work and establish a relationship beyond work hours. Studies have shown that participation in social activities often has beneficial effects on mental health among older adults.

Going to work provides many a reason to leave the house. Although it is commonly said that one should work to live and not live to work, for some, going to work gives them a purpose. They feel useful and appreciated. They share their talents and skills; contribute to the labor force and economy. They take pride in their work, for being part of making something happen or creating a product, saving someone’s life. When a person retires, depending on what they choose to or can do afterward, this sense of purpose, usefulness, and satisfaction makes them question their worth and consequently their mental health suffers and can lead to depression.

Experts have cited warning signs to look for in older adults. If you notice that your loved one experiences any of these, please seek help by contacting their primary care provider.

  • Feeling stressed, anxious, worried
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • A noticeable change in appetite, mood, energy level
  • Feeling disconnected, numb as if nothing matters
  • Cannot concentrate, is unusually confused or forgetful
  • Easily gets angry, scared, worried, upset, irritable
  • Increase in use of alcohol, drugs, smoking
  • At-risk behavior or thoughts
  • Loss of appetite or interest in doing things they enjoy
  • Suicidal thoughts