Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Screen shot from The Sunday Times May 6, 2012

You can be in a room full of people, and still feel lonely. The same can be said of the elderly living in a house full of family members. When your adult children have little time for you, and your grandchildren prefer to spend time with their friends or their electronic gadgets, you are left pretty much with yourself for company, more so if your spouse is no longer around.

This sense of loneliness can engulf the elderly person, and precipitate into bouts of depression. Over time, he is likely to develop thoughts of ending his life. After all, why prolong this life of misery where no one cares about your existence.

This is confirmed by Senior Consultant Psychiatrist from the National University Health System (NUHS), Professor Kua Ee Heok. He says, "The big concern is that a rise in elderly depression could cause suicide rates to spike too." Previous studies have shown that those who live alone tend to be more depressed than those who do not. But a new study conducted by NUHS shows that those living with others may also experience loneliness and depression.

About 25% of the 412 elderly respondents in the study showed signs of depression. All were aged 75 and above, and living at home with their family.

The good news is that, unlike dementia, depression can be prevented and treated more effectively. Family members should not dismiss signs of depression in their elderly parents as part and parcel of ageing.

What are these signs of depression? How would you know if you are at risk? You can take this simple test at the link below.


How can we prevent depression?

Studies have shown that those who remain employed longer or who volunteer to help with community service organizations enjoy better mental health. "Talk to people, stay engaged," advises Prof Kua.

The choice is ours to make. No point wallowing in self-pity. If our family members are too busy to take us out or spend time at home with us, it's up to us to look up our own friends and organize activities. We have to be pro-active. If we are house-bound, we can invite our friends over. There is always a solution if we care enough to seek it.

Join the Befrienders. Not only will you be bringing some cheer to the elderly who are lonely, but also helping yourself by keeping depression at bay. 

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