Elderly Depression and Other Indicators of Well-Being

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For many caregivers, prediction and planning are two of the most powerful tools used to maintain high-quality care for seniors. The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics brings together representatives and statistical information from various government agencies that serve seniors, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (and a lot more). This forum recently released the 2016 Older Americans: Key Indicators of Well-Being report. They define “older Americans” as those who are age 65 and over, and identify them as an important part of the U.S.’s social, cultural, and economic forces. By analyzing these statistics, this report can

For many caregivers, prediction and planning are two of the most powerful tools used to maintain high-quality care for seniors. The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics brings together representatives and statistical information from various government agencies that serve seniors, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (and a lot more). This forum recently released the 2016 Older Americans: Key Indicators of Well-Being report. They define “older Americans” as those who are age 65 and over, and identify them as an important part of the U.S.’s social, cultural, and economic forces. By analyzing these statistics, this report can

  1. help caregivers, families, seniors, and communities understand senior needs generally,
  2. think about how to best get (or keep) seniors involved in their communities and
  3. decide what kinds of changes should be made to keep older Americans happy and healthy for many years to come.

Key Indicators of Well-Being

This report is long—more than two hundred total pages. If you do not have advanced degrees in statistics and don’t have the time to read all 200+ pages, you should know what the Forum calls the 41 indicators of well-being. (We cannot discuss all of them here, but will choose some of the largest targets and list key remainders. If you would like to read the report in more detail, see the link below.) An indicator is anything that can be tied to well-being for older Americans. For example, economics are a huge indicator of well-being for older people in America. Without access to proper funds, many seniors have trouble getting adequate housing, medical care, food, and social events. The size of the various populations is another key indicator. People over 65 in the U.S. are a growing demographic thanks to the Baby Boomer generation, improved food and medical care, and access to social welfare systems such as Social Security. Understanding how many seniors are in the country, and in your state or city, can help caregivers, families, and communities plan for the kinds of businesses and buildings to attract over time.

Elderly Depression

Depression in the elderly is considered often by caregivers in assessing the quality of life for the one that they care for.  It is concerning to many caregivers especially when they look at their loved ones and wonder if they are really happy. Many people have gone through life being productive and busy so when the retirement years come or as other health problems arise, seniors begin to ask what this part of their life should be about. The report points out that the number of people who have reported depressive symptoms has stayed somewhat stable over the past few years.  Males reporting depression symptoms increased significantly after age 80. However, women in all age brackets reported higher incidences of depression over males showing “a clear U-shaped pattern with the highest rate among those ages 51 – 54 (21 percent) and those ages 80 – 84 (19 percent).

Health Status

We have already mentioned two of the most important indicators of well-being for older Americans; let us discuss three more in detail. First, health status is vital to senior well-being. Aspects of health such as life expectancy tend to vary across age and race; for those under 85, white seniors can expect to live a little over a year longer than black seniors. But once a senior reaches the age of 85, they are projected to live a few months longer if they are black rather than white. In addition to how long a senior might live, life-threatening dangers to seniors decreased for certain illnesses, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer.

Health Risks and Behaviors

One extremely useful way to read this report is to look into what behaviors can help seniors live longer. Older women in 2013 got their mammograms but tended to avoid their colorectal cancer screenings more often, which puts them at risk for undetected colorectal cancer but shows promise in their detection of breast cancer. Very few seniors met their advised guidelines for exercise in 2014, especially if they were over the age of 85 (only 5 percent!). Getting seniors to exercise in ways that are healthy and appropriate for their age and health are vital to keeping them living longer and maintaining their mobility, so investigate the physical exercise regimens of seniors around you.

Smoking generally declined between 1965 and 2014, but “10 percent of men and 8 percent of women age 65 and over” indicated that they still smoked in 2014. Working to quit smoking can be hard, especially for seniors who often form the habit decades before they need caregivers. If you want to increase the overall well-being of a senior in your life, consider talking with them about their smoking habits.

Special Feature

As part of this same study, the participants organized and reported a special feature on “Informal Caregiving”. The data contained in this special feature will be a subject of an upcoming article from SeniorsMatter.com.

Reading Well-Being Statistics

A brief note before you delve too deep into the statistics: numbers are not always conclusive. While there may be very few seniors listed on the report in your state, for example, you may find that many of them live near you and are in need of care. Many of these numbers are averages or ratios, meaning that they cannot truly predict with precision—they can only reflect a rough relationship between two things. There are also groups of people who do not appear on this report—immigrants, particularly the undocumented, do not frequently have access to the kinds of social services that collect this information, which means that some places might have higher or different demands than this report indicates. Take these numbers with a grain of salt and, especially if you are looking to influence community policy such as local ordinances or to attract businesses, more local research is often required.
Other key indicators that may be of interest: Environment, Educational Attainment, Poverty, Housing Problems, Dementia, Oral Health, and Chronic Health Conditions. See the report cited below for

Environment, Educational Attainment, Poverty, Housing Problems, Dementia, Oral Health, and Chronic Health Conditions. See the report cited below for a thorough analysis of this data.

More information on Elderly Depression

Sources

Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. 2016 Older Americans: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Available at https://agingstats.gov/docs/LatestReport/Older-Americans-2016-Key-Indicators-of-WellBeing.pdf. Retrieved May 28th, 2017.

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