Encourage your loved one be patient and persistent.
If depression persists, encourage your loved one to seek therapy. There are more therapists these days who welcome older patients -- and despite the disinclination of people of the Greatest Generation to seek therapy, it can be a real help. After a lot of hand-wringing over what others might think, my mother sought therapy during what turned out to be the last year of her life. She found incredible comfort and insight in her work with her therapist Jim -- and she urged some of her depressed friends to get help, too.
And what if you are the one depressed?
Depression can strike in midlife for a variety of reasons. Physical changes, like menopause, can interfere with sleep. Your looks may change and fade -- and this can be a source of depression if your appearance has been important to you. Your physical prowess may lessen. Your children grow from sweet childhood to sullen adolescence. Financial pressures mount. If you have retired recently, you may be shocked to discover that you miss the structure and sense of purpose that your working life provided.
Many of the suggestions that might work for an elder loved one could be helpful to you: to see a physician to rule out a physical reason for your depression; taking anti-depressants if appropriate; re-discovering old interests or finding new ones; seeking psychotherapy for new insights and perspectives.
For those in mid-life, exercise can make a major difference in how you feel. So can eating a healthy diet. Taking care of yourself in these ways is enormously life-affirming.
Giving to others can also elevate your mood. Do volunteer work. Mentor someone at work. Be kind to someone you know whose life seems even worse than yours. Make time for the friends and family members you enjoy most.
Adopt a pet. You'll not only have the joy of taking care of someone who needs you, but you will also have a gift of the unconditional love a pet can offer.
Do what you love --whether it's an old passion or something you've always wanted to try. Learning something new can keep your mind active and engaged with life.
And, while Aunt Molly's penchant for shoes as comfort objects didn't turn out to be genetic, I often think of her wonderful spirit and courage in the worst of times -- as well as her challenge to me to get down off my cross and get my sense of humor back.
A sense of humor -- the ability to laugh between one's tears -- helps immeasurably at any time of life.