The first step is for the elderly senior to see a doctor. A good history and physical are important. Certain blood tests that should be done include a vitamin B12, folate level as well as a thyroid panel. An underactive thyroid is associated with depression. I always have believed that an overview of dietary and exercise lifestyle must be discussed especially with the elderly. Both of these can affect depression.
Sometimes a medication might be prescribed but I feel a good discussion with the patient is the first place to start. Possibly there has been the loss of a loved one, a spouse or even a child. In Senior centers in New York City, Tai Chi is offered to help with depression. Studies have shown a weekly class and discussion of depression can improve the overall picture of depression in the elderly. Those who engage in outdoor activities reduce feelings of stress, confusion, anger and depression. I encourage elderly individuals to join the local garden club, or planting club. There is also Horticulture Therapy. In most cases, anyone participating in an outdoor activity or a real connection will nature will improve their overall general health. For me the connection with nature is plants and bees.
Then there is something which I had never even heard of - Bright Light Therapy. Recently a study with 89 patients concluded that bright light therapy improved mood, enhanced sleep and even increased melatonin levels in elderly patients with major depressive disorders. This was published in January 2011 in Archives of General Psychiatry. Life for me is a continuation of the learning process.
A simple remedy is the intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Multiple studies have shown the efficacy of oils for a multitude of diseases including depression, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. The dose studied was only 1.67 grams of EPA and 0.8 grams of DHA. This is small dose compared to the dosages I utilize. I use at a minimum 3 grams and as high as 6-8 grams.
The herbs/plants used are Passion Flower, St. John's Wart, California Poppy, Valerian and Chamomile . Oh yes and Kava kava. I would suggest the involvement of a health care practitioner as some of these herbs can interact with conventional drug therapy.