We all know that we have an ageing population: According to one source, "by 2032, there will be more people 65 and older than the total number of children under the age of 15". But did you know that you are more likely to find an initiative to meet the mental health needs of children and adolescents than the elderly community?
Age often brings a number of transitions (the end of a career, moving home, personal loss, reduced income), which can be stressful in itself. But age can also bring a decline in physical health, isolation, and a sense of vulnerability. If you add all of that up, you are faced with a significant impact on one’s mental health.
Psychotherapy helps people to manage life’s transitions, isolation, vulnerability, and the emotional impact of physical health. It is a place for “support, guidance and normalization of the emotional responses to each stage” of life (Suzanne Degges-White, president of the Association for Adult Development and Aging, a division of the American Counseling Association).
The ageing population is a diverse population. I have mentioned in other articles the unique needs, for example, of the LGBTQIA+ and nonbinary elder populations. It is important that we consider the mental health impact of discrimination experienced by this, and any other, minority group.
Psychotherapy can help individual members of the elderly community, but it can also transform the surrounding family. One person’s mental health issues inevitably has an impact on the family structure that surrounds them. In an article published by the American Counseling Association, Rebeca Cowan discusses the concept of “caregiver burnout”, explaining how she works with the caregiver to “brainstorm ways to increase support” and experience “brief relaxation exercises”. Psychotherapy can include these family members, so that everyone gets a chance to experience the support, guidance and normalization that is on offer.
As we anticipate a time when the elder population outnumbers the adolescent population, we need to consider how prepared we are to meet their needs.
If you have any questions about this, please do get in contact.
Chris Warren-Dickins, Licensed Professional Counselor
NJCA Public Policy & Legislation Committee Member