Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Mental health matters at all stages of life.
Mature adults make up the smallest group who regularly attend therapy, but this shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication that they don’t suffer with mental health concerns. Common issues that seniors report to affect their mental health include isolation and loneliness due to losses of spouse, friends, siblings and other family; lack of meaning or purpose in life, particularly after retirement; changes in the way the body and brain make and digest the chemicals that regulate mood; and health issues that impact quality-of-life, especially those that cause chronic pain.
One of the common questions we hear from older adults is, “What can a therapist do to help me anyway?” Therapy can be an important source of connection to someone who isn’t your child, spouse, or caregiver. We often hear “I don’t want to burden my kids with this,” from mature adults who decide to give therapy a try. A therapist is also someone who can help troubleshoot and find solutions to the above-named issues and other concerns, someone who can help make a plan to support a positive transition from working to retirement, work with other professionals involved in your healthcare, someone who can support you through grief and help improve complicated family relationships.
For those with a mature adult in their life, the message that mental health matters at all stages of life is one that can’t be overstated. As an outside and more objective observer of your loved one’s mental health, you have an important role in noticing and bringing attention to changes and concerns. Most people who experience a mental health issue, particularly later in life, report that it creeps up on them. The slow progression combined with the reinforcing symptoms of an issue like depression make it difficult for the sufferer to see the severity of the problem, and even more so to take action to improve it.
For those who might be noticing early, small signs that their mental health isn’t what it used to be, think about the things that brought quality-of-life in the past. Today is the perfect day to return to a former habit or start something new: volunteering, joining a group, starting a small business or hobby, making lifestyle changes that support optimal body and brain functioning, or seeing a therapist for support are all great ways to improve your mental health. Remember: you’re only as old as you behave!
Blog Author -- Jodie Voth, RMFT
Jodie is a full-time therapist and owner of Voth Family Therapy. She enjoys working with teens and motivated adults who are working through transitions and relationship challenges.