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Are your Aging Parents or Elderly Clients Depressed?

July 15, 2012

Today I am going to take a detour. We’ll return to talking about pets later this week, but this morning I want to address something else. It’s been nagging at me for a few days. I was going to put it off because it’s not a full thought yet in my mind, but a blog post from Jeff Goins clarified the decision to share it with you now. Jeff encouraged his readers to break the rules and “Say Something.” In other words he wanted other writers to consider stepping out of their comfort zones and take a risk. Here goes.

Yesterday I tweeted a question about whether the elderly might be depressed based on what they see on television. I’d like to make that the topic of today’s post. Consider the following:

* Senior citizens are at a developmental stage where they need to feel their lives have produced something meaningful.

* Seniors need validation for the accomplishments achieved during their lifetimes.

* Many seniors are depressed.

* Many seniors tend to spend more time watching television than they did in their younger years.

* Is it possible that the things viewed on television have an influence on the mood of viewers?

As a responsible blogger I should come up with hard-core statistics for the third and fourth statements I made above. Since it was a last-minute decision to write on this subject I didn’t research it, but will clarify that the statements are based on my years as a home health nurse and may not apply to all socioeconomic groups of seniors or all geographical locations, or even to a majority of seniors. The last two statements are based on the seniors I have cared for or been exposed to through the agencies I have managed and owned.

The first two statements are considered factual and taught in sociology, psychology, and nursing classes. The final question is one I’d like you to think about with an open mind.

Why bring up a connection between depression and television? Actually, it is something I experienced myself this past week and the phenomena got me thinking. I don’t own a television  and haven’t been a regular viewer of programs for a number of years. This past week however, I’ve been house/dog sitting for a friend. She has television and as a result I turned it on for background noise while writing and reading. I flipped channels, caught snippets of trash talk programs, movies, regular daytime programming (soap operas), comedy shows, the news, and sports.

Over the course of a few days, and a steady diet of television, I found my normally optimistic and upbeat mood slipping into fear, anger, and finally depression. I’m visiting a lovely house in a beautiful location. The birds are singing, the frogs are croaking, the cool breeze is blowing through open windows with the smell of freshly mowed hay yet my mood is dark and I am lethargic. I’m aware enough to notice the change so started pondering it. All I could come up with was the increased television viewing.

Then it hit me. I’ve been watching fear, anger, melodrama, and violence on a daily basis for a few days and my system is not used to digesting it. Not only that, my system does not want to digest it. Think about it: the news shows us murders, betrayals, war, and brutality; soap operas are a magnified version of continuous melodrama played out in the lives of every character on the show; trash talk programming seems focused on the basest of human nature in the form of cheating spouses, drugged out teenagers, dishonest family members, abusive cohabitants, and greedy con artists; and movies force feed all of it to us in a two-hour time span. Commercials, in between the programming, are blatant lies dressed up in fancy marketing packages in a pitch to get us to spend our hard-earned money on mostly superfluous commodities.

Are you depressed yet? If not, you should be. Imagine your parents or clients spending even a small portion of their day exposed to this on a regular basis. Does this type of input do anything to enhance their quality of life? Does television do anything to applaud the accomplishments of the aging generation or to validate their years of hard work? Does the majority of programming instill a sense of comfort or serenity? Based on my experience I’d say not.

Before anyone gets all up in arms and states that I am rabidly opposed to television let me state very clearly that we all have a choice in what we watch and how we spend our time. I am not saying that the “ills” of the world fall at the feet of television or movie producers. What I would like to say though is that it would be nice if there was more of a balance in programming:  balance the ugliness shown on the news with positive stories; for every movie filled with violence and destruction let there be one of redemption and glory;  program daytime television with adult programs of courage, heroism, and take the stories from the archives of human progress and goodness. If we made it clear to television and movie producers that we’d like to see more beauty and less ugliness in programming they would give it to us.

All of this is just a thought, but one I hope you’ll spend some time exploring in your own mind and maybe discussing with your aging parents or elderly clients.

Whether you agree with me or not on this topic, I’d love to read your comments. Thanks for allowing me to share with you my thoughts.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2012 9:36 pm

    Hi there- I nominated you for the Inspiring Blog Award! If you want to participate, you can check out my post here and follow the steps.

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