Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pleasure, Purpose and a Reason for Living

The New York Times had a sobering article on Nov. 27 about the incidence of suicide among older Americans. Although people 65 and older make up only 12 percent of the population, they represent 16 to 25 percent of the suicides. Four out of five suicides in older adults are men.

The article, by Jane E. Brody, noted that while depression is the main precipitant of suicide at all ages, social isolation is an important risk factor for suicide among the elderly. "And older men, more so than older women, often become socially isolated," Brody wrote.

Dr. Gregory K. Brown, a suicide specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, recommended that older people make every effort to prevent depression in the first place by maintaining a regular cycle and planning activities that "give them pleasure, purpose and a reason for living." He suggested "social activities of any type -- joining a book club or bowling league, going to a senior center or gym, taking courses at a local college, hanging out at the coffee shop."

Dr. Brown said any activity a person is capable of doing can help ward off depression. Rebooting yourself into a new career or pursuit is certainly one way to stay active in the later years and maintain good mental health.

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