Life change: Avoiding depression and anxiety after the “gold watch”

For the nearly four million seniors in Canada heading into their retirement years, the road beyond the “gold watch” is full of change and new challenges. Seniors constitute the fastest growing population group in Canada. As the “baby boomers” (born between 1946 and 1965) age, the seniors population is expected to reach 6.7 million in 2021 and 9.2 million in 2041 (nearly one in four Canadians).

The transition from work-life to retirement can bring about many unexpected lifestyle adjustments. Change at any stage in life can be challenging, and can cause natural responses such as worry or sadness which, if prolonged and left untreated, can lead to more serious conditions such as anxiety or depression.

The two most common mental health problems encountered by seniors are cognitive impairment, including dementia, and depression. “Depression and anxiety can result from major life change, but effective treatments can help achieve the ultimate goal – freedom from symptoms,” says psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Ungar Medical Director of the North York General Hospital Outpatient Mental Health Department. “Newer anti-depressants combined with cognitive therapy are effective long-term approaches to getting people back to their normal lives.”

Seniors who find they are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety can help themselves in the following ways:

  • Surround yourself with a strong network of social supports: people with broad social networks enjoy better physical and mental health.
  • Seek solutions to your problems instead of just trying to control your emotions.
  • Make new acquaintances: isolation increases vulnerability to depression.
  • Pursue activities you like, particularly ones that put you in contact with others.
  • Try to make your own decisions. Often, good decisions can be made after gathering new information and opinions from others.
  • Take risks and try new things, without necessarily expecting to be successful immediately.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help; asking for help is a sign of health and maturity, a way of being in control.

The sooner depression or anxiety are identified and properly treated, the sooner someone who is entering a new stage in life will be able to embrace change. For more information speak to your doctor or visit