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Depression in the Third Age

3 Nov 2004

By Caroline Clauss-Ehlers

Research indicates that Latino elderly experience major medical problems and one of them is depression. Depression refers to feelings of sadness so severe that the individual experiences a lack of interest in things that were once enjoyable, feels worthless, and may not be able to function at home, school, or in the workplace. Depression includes at least five of the following symptoms: depressed mood, irritability, lack of interest in some or almost all activities, substantial weight loss or weight gain, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, restlessness or feeling slowed down, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, inability to concentrate or make decisions, and recurrent thoughts of death.

Mr. Edwin Méndez-Santiago, Commissioner for the City of New York, Department for the Aging, says that depression among the elderly is an important, and often hidden issue in the Latino community. "Aging is not a disease, it is a normal life process. Many people think the elderly should be depressed but that is not the case. These are later stages in life that present a new opportunity to explore ourselves." "People can have adjustment problems to retirement," affirms Commissioner Méndez-Santiago. "As a result retirees may not know what to do with their leisure time and this can lead to symptoms of depression."

For elderly Latinos the key is to get help in a timely manner. Depression untreated can lead to suicide. Unfortunately, many do not pick up on the clues and recognize the symptoms that the elderly person is feeling depressed. "If you suspect a change in behavior it is important to get an appointment with a geriatrician," emphasizes Commissioner Méndez-Santiago.

This column is educational. It does not substitute for formal medical advice. Do not use this information without talking with a qualified professional.

Send your questions to Nueva Edad/Hoy, 330 West 34St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001
Or call at (212) 462-9464
Or write to

Copyright 2004. Used with permission from Hoy.

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