Aging related concerns

More than one in every seven Americans is an older adult, aged 65 or older. The aging population is set to continue to grow rapidly in the future, meaning it’s becoming even more important to focus on good mental health across the entire lifespan.

Many of the challenges experienced by older adults are similar to those encountered by younger adults. That said, the inevitable change that is part of the aging process brings with it a range of unique concerns, such as:

In the US, the aging population is continuing to grow; it’s estimated that by 2030, around 20% of the population will be aged 65 or over. Estimates suggest that around 20-22% of older adults in America meet criteria for a mental health diagnosis (including dementia).

According to the World Health Organization, some of the most common mental and neurological disorders experienced by older people include:

Whether you’re having difficulty adapting to the changes that come with aging, or are experiencing mental health challenges, a range of treatment options can help:

There is no clear particular mode of therapy that has emerged as the most effective for older adults (8), so it’s important to consider different therapy types and how they resonate with you before choosing. Common modalities to consider include:

If you’re unsure which modality will be most suited to your needs, your prospective therapist is a great person to seek advice from.

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a mental health professional, including:

Specialization: Look for a therapist who specializes in working with older adults; these professionals will be able to adapt therapeutic modalities to meet your needs. For example, some older adults experiencing cognitive changes can benefit from a slower pace of therapy. Therapists often include their specializations in their biographies on their website or online profile. Depending on your age and concerns, you might look out for terms like ‘aging’, ‘geropsychiatry’, ‘geropsychology’, or ‘geriatric psychotherapy’.

Qualifications: With so many different provider types available, it can be difficult to decide which type of mental health professional to see. The most important thing is to look for a currently licensed therapist. That said, if you think medication might be needed, make sure you see a psychiatrist. This particular type of mental health professional is able to prescribe.

Personal fit: The trusting relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. The best way to judge how you might feel about a therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. This also enables you to ask about their experience and what therapy with them will be like. Try to speak to a few different therapists before deciding on a provider.

If you’re caring for someone who is aging, it’s important to also pay attention to your own wellbeing. There are plenty of steps you can take to nurture and care for yourself as well as the older adult during times of stress. Enlisting the help of a therapist can make a huge difference to the quality of life for you both.

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