Group Activities Reduce Depression among Older Population

Caregiver, patient expert
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When our elders are suffering from physical pain, mental stress, loneliness or the effects of ageism in our society, the result can be depression. Research done at Sweden’s Umeå University and reported on by Medical News Today finds that when group activities were introduced into the elders’ environments, depressive symptoms were often improved and the need for medication reduced or eliminated.

Two separate programs were used for the research. One was a group high-intensity functional exercise program and the other was a non-exercise group activity. They were conducted with people in an elder care facility, all of whom had dementia.

The experiment found that both groups had equally reduced levels of depressive symptoms, so exercise was not a factor in lowering their symptoms.

Gustaf Boström is a doctoral student at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation and author of the dissertation that explains the reason behind the research.

“Treatment with antidepressants is often ineffective in older people and people with dementia,” Boström says. “In addition, the risk of drug-related side effects increases with higher age and poor health, which is yet another reason to find other treatments.”

Modern care providers worldwide have come to understand the need for group participation events. A report from the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology in London describes how people with dementia, as well as their caregivers, benefitted from group singing. Additionally, Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) in Dorset (UK) has found that people with dementia who played in an orchestra felt a boost in confidence and mood.

Not all elders want to take part in group events when the idea is first presented, but many can slowly be drawn into group action if they aren’t forced. Taking the person’s unique personality into consideration is important. Some may simply want to watch a music event while others would like to take part in the entertainment. Some would like to play a game geared to their abilities while others would rather see a movie while in a group.

The idea is to draw elders into some type of social interaction. That can help avoid depression exacerbated by too much time to contemplate the negative side of their lives. Enjoyment is an important key to success and patience is vital to finding the right type of situation for the elders.

Studies from around the globe show that socialization is a necessary part of brain health, even if the person already has dementia. Lifting a person's mood through friendship and activity is a highly attractive way of providing a better quality of life.

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Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver having spent over two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a longtime newspaper columnist and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” as well as a contributor to several additional books on caregiving and dementia. Her websites can be accessed at www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter@mindingourelder_ and on Facebook Minding Our Elders_.