With age, the old saying goes, comes wisdom. Many years of experience and many more years of reflection and self-reflection supposedly result in people becoming much wiser over the years. This wisdom and knowledge is hard-earned, derived from a lifetime worth of hard work and facing up to the stress and pressure that life regularly throws at people. Granted, most of this knowledge and wisdom tends to be overlooked and, in some cases, can be totally irrelevant to the situation at hand, but should not be so easily dismissed. However, according to a number of recent studies, depression, and suicide also appear to come with age. It appears that older generations are more likely to take their own lives, with the number expected to increase as the ‘baby boomer’ generation gets older.
The elderly, statistically, are the most likely segment of the general public to commit suicide. Across the United States, the statistics prove this as a harsh fact and not merely some sort of passing trend. While the rate of 11 per 100,000 people may seem rather low, it really isn’t. Once one considers the relative population of the US, 11 suicide cases for every 100,000 people can roughly equate to 11 people taking their own lives along the average New York City block every year. Note that this statistic only covers the elderly (60 and above) and not any other segments that have suicide statistics. This statistic is only a rough estimate, with some organizations putting the number at 14 for every 100,000 people as being more accurate.
However, the alarming number of cases is not the only concern here. Another thing worth noting would be the fact that most prevention programs don’t really reach out to the elderly. Most hotlines dedicated to helping people get over thoughts of the suicidal sort target younger groups in high-pressure situations, such as women experiencing emotional crises and college students buckling under the strain of academic pressure. There are millions of dollars being spent on these groups, with young adults and teenagers being the primary target of the government’s allotted $84 million budget for the problem.
The relative lack of concern for the elderly in the US has led to higher suicide rates, some groups believe. With people finding less and less time to actually visit the elderly in their family, employment opportunities being closed off in favor of younger employees, and the onset of a general feeling of uselessness, things often look bleak — at least, in the view of the depressed senior citizens. In a culture that places an excessive value on being productive at work, being retired can often be an unwelcome situation, sometimes bringing about depression.
There are worries about the number of these cases going up as the ‘baby boomer’ generation comes into old age. Another worry comes in the form of just how under-diagnosed the psychological condition actually is. There are so many out there who experience the condition that are not diagnosed or treated properly, with people essentially ignoring the signs or are entirely unaware of them. At the moment, some agencies are training government employees who come into regular contact with the elderly, such as postal carriers, to be able to detect possible signs of the problem and report them to the appropriate agencies.