Aging is a natural process that can present challenges for some individuals and their families. Many older adults look forward to moving from middle age into their later years, although it may be difficult for them to adjust. Most older adults may also experience health issues and stress as they approach and pass middle age, and the support of a therapist or other mental health professional may help to ease the transition.
Understanding Aging and Geriatric Issues
While some adults may approach their "Golden Years" anticipating retirement, grandchildren, or “a new phase of life,” others may dread the physical and mental effects of aging. It may be challenging and difficult for some adults to face the transition to retirement, to deal with new frailty or medical conditions, or to find enjoyable, meaningful activities if they do experience physical challenges that limit their mobility. It may also be hard for some older adults to face their own mortality, especially as more of their loved ones are passing on. Older adults may also find it challenging to attend to basic needs in the presence of Alzheimer’s Disease (or other forms of Dementia) or
Ageism (discrimination based on a person's age) which may lead to inability to find employment in later years, to forced retirement, or to cause well-intentioned loved ones to ignore an older adult's desires or opinions. This can result in older adults often feeling disrespected, isolated, and financially challenged.
Medical Issues of Aging
One of the challenges older adults will experience is changes with memory and cognitive abilities which is a normal part of the aging process. Decline is often noted in the areas of:
A therapist or other mental health professional can help older adults become accustomed to and adjust to these kinds of changes, and also provide testing and assessment to determine an adequate treatment plan. Therapists can also provide interventions and support to caregivers and family members who are caring for an older adult.
Cognitive and Mental Health Concerns
It is normal for older adults to experience mild mental decline as they grow older, but some adults may be affected by Dementia which can lead to significant impairment in function and may influence the development of conditions such as depression, paranoia, and anxiety. Alzheimer's, a progressive condition that also impacts memory and mental function, is the most common form of dementia.
Mental health concerns often experienced by older adults include:
Benefits of Therapy for Older Adults
Therapy can help older adults who may have difficulty with the transitions of aging to manage their emotions, to find new sources of joy or meaning and purpose, as well as to establish new support systems. It can help people face their fears of their own mortality, if they have such fears, and deal with grief as loved ones pass on. Family or individual therapy can also assist family members who may be caretakers of their older relatives, as it can assist them in dealing with their emotions and communication issues, especially if an elder has some form of dementia. Possible diagnoses associated with aging might include depression or anxiety.
Many older adults also enter therapy to seek treatment for mental health issues not related to aging in higher numbers than they did in the past. This appears to be due to the fact that attitudes pertaining to mental health issues have begun to change as awareness increases. Many older adults grew up in a time when mental illness was stigmatized and when all mental issues faced by seniors were written off as aging or dementia. But now, therapy is considered by many older adults as a form of treatment, and research shows that seniors are often more serious about therapy. They realize that their time is limited, and they tend to obtain results more quickly than younger people do. In therapy, seniors may address issues from childhood or early adulthood; current life adjustments; and issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, or family concerns, among others.
Older adults may also be more likely to enter therapy late in life now as compared to in the past simply because people live longer now than they did previously. A person who is 60 years of age is likely to have 15 or 20 years remaining in life, and the transitory period that occurs for many at this stage may begin a process of reflection that leads many older adults to seek therapy.
Therapists who specialize in this area: