Aging is a natural process that may present challenges for some individuals and their families. Although many older adults look forward to moving from middle age into their later years, it may be difficult for others to adjust. All adults may 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 ease the transition.
Cognitive and Mental Health Concerns
Older adults often 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 and is the cause of 50 to 80% of all cases of dementia in the United States.Statistics show that about 15% of adults over the age of 60 have a mental health condition.
Mental health concerns often experienced by older adults include:
- Anxiety, which affects 6% of older adults
- Sexual dysfunction and sleep problems. The likelihood of either of these conditions increases with age.
- Depression, which occurs in approximately 7% of the older adult population and is often undiagnosed and untreated. Older adults who live in a community have been shown to experience depression at lower rates than younger adults, however.
- Behavioral concerns, such as aggression, motor overactivity or wandering, and verbal outbursts. These are often caused by delirium, depression, or dementia.
- High suicide rates. Older adults experience the highest suicide rate of any age group.
- Alcohol and substance dependency. 2-5% of men and 1% of women over the age of 65 are dependent on drugs or alcohol, but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that by 2020, half of all Americans between the ages of 50 and 70 will be at high risk of alcohol and marijuana dependency, compared to fewer than 9% of all Americans in 1999.
Therapy for Geriatric Issues
Therapy can help older adults who may have difficulty with the transitions of aging to manage their emotions, find new sources of enjoyment and meaning, and find new support systems. It can help people face their fears of death, if they have such fears, and deal with grief as friends and family members pass on. Possible diagnoses associated with aging might be include depression or anxiety. Dementia is technically a medical diagnosis rather than a mental one, but therapeutic treatment may be able to help treat some of the symptoms associated with dementia.
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, realizing that their time is limited, and that 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 than they were 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.
Borrowed from goodtherapy.com