Many people think that once they reach a certain age, they can’t change. We say people are ‘set in their ways’, ‘things were different then’ or ‘people didn’t talk about those things’ when we think about counseling and seniors. But as many therapists are attesting, seniors are expressing more interest in therapy, and benefitting from it in more profound ways, than almost anyone would expect. Indeed, there’s an element of ageism in assuming that seniors can’t or won’t benefit from therapy, as though their lives, their stresses, joys, and anxieties, are any less worthy of attention or care as those of younger people. And while moving past this ageist stigma can be more difficult with seniors than with younger patients, the vivacity and thrill of improvement and change that seniors experience, when our society, media, and even families have written off their concerns, is profound.
Aging isn’t Always Easy, but Don’t Make it Harder!
Are You Mature in Age? This Is Why You Need Therapy!Although many view the “golden years” as a time of rest and pleasure, for some, even many, it can be a depressing time of uncertain changes, as we no longer have a job to provide a routine or income, no longer socialize as often as we did when employed, children have grown and are creating their own lives, and medical conditions may become more chronic. For some seniors, therapy is a lot like therapy for younger people who switch careers or get divorced: you’re learning to adjust to new and uncertain terrain, and having a trusted partner like a therapist can make that transition easier. For others, those with chronic physical ailments, for example, adjusting not just physically but psychologically to a more difficult lifestyle can be incredibly stressful, and numerous studies have shown that increased stress levels, especially in the elderly, make recovery significantly more difficult.
You Can Still Get It On…and Up
Are You Mature in Age? This Is Why You Need Therapy!An especially salient change in physical life for seniors is the role of sex and intimacy. Our bodies change chemically as we age, and many people experience what can be a frightening decrease in sexual desire as they age. But because we so stigmatize the idea of senior intimacy and sexuality, we often tacitly encourage seniors to interpret this ‘drop off’ as a ‘deadening’, which is not only a false assumption, but it worsens sexual frustration and other anxieties. Although our bodies change more significantly at these ages, numerous studies show an important link between quality of life for the elderly and levels of touch, intimacy, and sexual activity that they experience. Sex therapy for the elderly can focus on just these issues: how to maintain a sexually satisfying lifestyle, despite decreases in libido or ability; how to work with physical therapists and developing workout regimens that focus on maintaining muscle groups and cardiovascular health that are essential to a satisfying sex life.
Talk to Someone Who Understands
Are You Mature in Age? This Is Why You Need Therapy!Indeed, therapy can help process the numerous changes, physical and psychological, and help manage any symptoms of depression, and provide support for creating a new routine including remaining active and social. I have many clients in the 60 plus age range who enjoy therapy and reporting learning more about themselves and how the past impacted who they are today. This knowledge has helped them improve current relationships or form healthier relationships with others. For these reasons, we should encourage seniors to seek out therapists trained in senior care. These providers focus on the challenges, and triumphs, unique to seniority, and are especially well-positioned to form bonds aimed at improving these patients’ specific psychological needs.
I hope you enjoyed the final installment of my Therapy Through the Decades series. Are you a senior struggle with life change? Do you have a senior family member struggling with life change? I’d love hear from you in a comment below or you can contact me here.