The one thing we can always be sure of in life is change and transition.
Today we are blessed to live much longer and healthier lives than many of our parents and grandparents. In past generations, for example in the 1960s, the average life expectancy was about 52 years old. Today, men live to an average age of about 73.4 years while women are expected to reach 80.1 years.
Distressing life transitions
What we probably never expected is the occurrence of rising divorce rates among older couples. Between the years of 1990 and 2010, divorce rates for those 50 years and older have doubled. When we reach the age of 65, the rate triples.
Divorce at this time in life can bring devastating emotional consequences. But for some couples staying together feels more painful than separating. In these cases, couples have a choice to rebuild and repair their relationship or separate and go through life alone.
New life, new relationships
A natural consequence of divorce is finding someone new. In this situation, many issues can arise with a whole new family. We have a new partner, new adult children, new friends, and new family dynamics, all of which must be navigated while establishing healthy boundaries and holding on to our sense of self.
Relating to new people can be difficult, especially if all members of the family do not respect or welcome us. We may need outside support. We may need to develop coping and relating skills that we did not need before.
Problems can also occur with one’s own children. Divorce is painful for everyone, and adult children often suffer as a result of real concern for each parent. The dream of a whole and happy family has been broken, and adjustments must be made.
Psychotherapy for seniors
In my practice, I see many older people in several different contexts.
I see seniors who have found new families. I also see couples who have remained together for 30 years or more but are in distress and need help. Retirement often brings up many unexpected issues. The loss of a job or career may bring up a feeling of lost purpose. Retirement brings freedom, but it is also associated with loss. Social relationships associated with the job disappear. Too much free time can be depressing for some people.
If not handled with the proper state of mind and outlook, retirement can bring up many stressful and emotionally disturbing issues. When we think of seniors, we do not often think of psychotherapy. Unfortunately, the benefits of psychotherapy for seniors has been underappreciated. However, both interpersonal psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and couples therapy are immensely beneficial for seniors.
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