As we age, previous concerns may go to the wayside as new problems emerge. For example, maybe you feel more stable in your relationships, but you also can’t drink as much as you used to because you feel anxious the following day. In other words, each stage has its struggles and joys. While we’re all unique in some way, you’re probably less alone than you may think regarding those problems.

Additionally, a collection of coping skills can help you handle them, even as emotional and challenging as they often feel. Here are some topics therapists hear the most about from older clients and how they advise clients to handle those concerns.

Grieving transitions.

As you age, a lot of changes happen and grieving what had been is normal and understandable. A lot of patients discuss how challenging it is to start transitioning to retirement or getting older mentally and physically. This goes for losing lost loved ones, but that’s not the only type of grief experienced. Older adults can also experience the grieving process when they retire from their careers that they’ve been in for years. They can also go through the grieving process when they start to see a decline in their or their significant other’s physical and mental health.

One therapist suggests allowing yourself to feel your feelings. Having a therapist who can help with this is smart, but it may not be accessible for everyone. If that’s the case for you, consider family and friends and let them know what you need.

Navigating relationships with adult children.

As you get older, your children do, too, which leads to changes in relationship dynamics. One of the most common topics therapists encounter in counseling older adults is their relationship with their adult children. In childhood and adolescence, patterns are typically established, and it can be a challenging adjustment for older adults to learn how to parent an adult. It all comes down to working together and communicating. You can explore ways to improve communication, establish healthy boundaries, and find connections in the relationship. This might look like engaging in activities you both enjoy or asking open-ended questions.

Struggling with body image.

Kelsey Latimer, a psychologist who’s worked with older people, has heard numerous clients pick themselves apart, especially during times of transition, change, and stress. These changes can trigger a deep sense of instability, fear of the unknown, and loss of control. Our mind can disconnect from these underlying things and settle on thinking our bodies are the issue or the wrinkles on our faces are why we feel this way. Naturally, societal beliefs don’t help. The fact that we live in a culture where the aging process isn’t seen to be embraced puts unrealistic expectations on people and can reinforce these feelings of instability during change.

If you struggle with bodily image, Latimer encourages directly dealing with your emotions, ideally with a professional or friends who are going through similar issues. Try to do your best to realize this isn’t about your sagging skin or wrinkles on your face; it’s more significant than that. Don’t suffer in silence; talk through it and find space for your emotions.

Facing regrets.

Aging usually comes with reflection. Older adults typically spend time trying to contribute to the world and reflect on their lives. Did they live life the way they wanted and fulfill their purpose? This topic is another that’s commonly discussed in therapy. Clients might reminisce about good times and regrets, depending on their thoughts and mood during a session. In this case, the three keywords are acceptance, validation, and change, usually in that order. For those reflecting on their past, especially their regrets, it’s best to validate their emotions and thoughts on the topic and work on moving toward a perspective of acceptance. You can’t change the past, but learning from it is essential.

One aspect you can learn more about is who you are, focusing on your desires and values. It’s also the recognition that there’s still time to develop new hobbies and traits if they wish. This might look like trying an art class, being more kind, or becoming more involved in your place of worship, though those examples only scratch the surface of possibilities.

Facing loss.

Unfortunately, like grief, the aging process is filled with loss. This is a nonfinite loss that doesn’t involve physical death, but there’s a sense that the loss is enduring in nature. For older adults, such a loss could involve letting go of treasured habits, feeling nostalgic about a critical time in life, or coming to terms with a drop in mental or physical strength. Another type of loss that involves many of the others is a sense of losing your identity.

Allow yourself to feel those emotions and try to move forward positively. Even if the loss isn’t clearly visible, it’s significant and valid. After coming to terms with that, what helps? As part of actively coping, you could also focus on the things that you can do instead of those that you can’t. Practicing gratitude for the essential things that continue to be present could also help counteract feelings of loss.

We may not think about it, but getting older comes with a lot of change. You have to deal with physical and mental declines, dynamic changes in your relationship with your adult children, and the loss of loved ones and friends. However, older adults should know that they don’t have to face these challenges alone. Talking to a therapist can help you work through these issues and hear a different perspective. However, if therapy isn’t available, it could be best to talk to a friend about what you’re dealing with. You never know; they may be facing the same issues.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad