Symptoms of depression in aging populations can lead to significantly reduced quality of life, and even worsen health problems caused by other medical conditions. Luckily, there are many geriatric depression treatment options. Once your doctor has made a definitive diagnosis of depression, she can determine the best elderly depression treatment for you.

Antidepressant Treatment for Depression

Just like depression in other age groups, antidepressants may treat depression in aging populations. This type of geriatric depression treatment eases symptoms by altering the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Elderly patients process antidepressants differently than younger individuals, due to liver and kidney function changes. Seniors may be more susceptible to drug interactions or side effects with this type of treatment for depression. In addition, SSRIs, a certain type of antidepressants, may cause increased risk of bone fracture in older individuals.

Older patients who choose this type of geriatric depression treatment may need assistance with taking their medication, particularly if they suffer from any type of memory loss. It’s important to take antidepressants on a regular schedule: Missed, late or additional doses can change the effects of the treatment for depression. Your doctor can help you to decide which antidepressant and dosage is best for your specific symptoms.

Psychotherapy for Depression in Aging People

Psychotherapy is therapeutic intervention by a licensed mental health professional. This elderly depression treatment option helps individuals to cope with negative thoughts and emotions. Psychotherapy can be effective on its own or in combination with medication, in order to help depressed individuals deal with:

  • Negative beliefs or behaviors
  • Stigma associated with depression
  • The loss of a loved one.

Alternative Treatment for Depression

Along with antidepressants and psychotherapy, there are other geriatric depression treatment options. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are two methods that use minimally invasive electrical and magnetic energy to stimulate the brain and relieve depression symptoms. These treatments can be effective for some sufferers of depression in aging years.

As another geriatric depression treatment option, aerobic exercise can lessen emotional and physical symptoms. A Duke University Medical Center Study conducted in 1999 found that the effects of exercise were comparable to those of antidepressants in older individuals with depression. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can improve your overall health or ease depression symptoms. Contact your doctor before beginning an exercise program for elderly depression treatment.

Support for Depression in Aging Years

Changes to social and family life can contribute to the development of depression in elderly populations. Loss of friends or loved ones, or a reduction in independence and mobility may lead to depression. If you have an elderly friend or relative suffering from depression, you’ll want to support her. Spend time together doing enjoyable activities, and encourage her to follow her geriatric depression treatment plan.


Abraham, G., et al. (2007). “Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for treatment of elderly patients with depression Ð An open label trial.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 3(6): 919-924.

Blumenthal, J., et al. (1999). “Effects of Exercise Training on Older Patients with Major Depression.” Archives of Internal Medicine, 159(19): 2349-2356.

Childs, D. (2007). Antidepressants put elderly at fracture risk. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the ABC News website:

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation Staff. (n.d.). Depression late in life: Not a normal part of aging. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation website:

National Alliance on Mental Illness Staff. (n.d.). Depression in older persons fact sheet. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness website:

 Posted on : June 26, 2014