PROBLEMS OF OLD AGE

COUNSELLING FOR OLD PEOPLE

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Yes, you are older and wiser but it is always good to talk…

In old age, you probably have a wealth of complex experience and philosophises, could be about life, people and others areas of work. At the same time, there are also a lot of emotional as well as physical issues. These two aspects are connected to each other. This life period is usually an illness prone age where old people can face many diseases such as heart problems, diabetes, degenerative diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis or memory loss which could worsen in the form of dementia or Alzheimer’s. All this leads to a lack of productivity. Apart from these, sometimes there are side effects of drugs, lack of social engagement, dependency on others, a lot of old people are trying to come to terms with this transition and accept the numerous losses alongside. Further, most of the elderly are in denial and do not find these problems worth dealing with which takes these issues to the grave with us. Sometimes some pursuals on the benefit of counselling helps a very few percentage of people who lead freer life when it is time to live in peaceful reminiscence and build up more in the shorter time we have.

Discussing some patterns of difficulties:

• Old people should look at self-development and building on capabilities to make the best use of the leisure time now at hand. It would also regulate their physical health, thoughts and emotions keeping them fit throughout the last phase of their life.

• Getting older has many human challenges. There is discrimination against the old in many spheres and this would certainly impact many of them emotionally. To add to this there is neglect among the old as they are many a times dependant on others for care. There is a need in them to gather these experiences, accept and revalue their life.

• Bereavement can be a poignant phase of elders life as death of a lifetime loved one along with series of other personal, social, economical losses can be heart wrenching and set in a kind of withdrawal where they could build up walls all around them and suffer silently till they live with mixed emotions of guilt, shame, self blame, anger, loneliness. This needs to be confronted, old people need to challenge their thoughts wherever necessary as thoughts lead to feelings. Losses could be several in terms of family, friends, vocation, independence, health, etc.

• Old people have a need in them to express about their past, their present and also the fears about future. They want to be heard and rightly so while they are able to process their lifetime into meaningful experiences. Everyone deserves a chance to be heard rather than just being dismissed with problems being a natural part of their life. They really do not get a chance to tell someone what they have gone through and how they are feeling.

“Experts say that old people are more serious about counselling once they see the benefits and start the process”

• Aging is a natural process which all living beings go through if they live enough. It cannot be denied. All kinds of animals also go through it and die hungry or diseased when they are old and can no longer hunt or take care of themselves. But with the advent of scientific research, we are able to medically extend human life which loses its quality as it is not natural. This extended life sometimes is filled with void and isolation along with physical ailments. We feel proud of the achievements in the medical field as it has increased our life span, but we do not realise that death is not the only fear in old age. The most significant is actually aging and developing disabilities.

• Old age is also filled with many degenerative processes like blood pressure, memory loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart strokes… This is accompanied my mental agony in terms of feeling worthless and inadequate, fearful and vulnerable. According to research, this leads to depression in old age, i.e. at the age of 65 and above.

• A series of losses and stresses in late life can bring up repressed and unresolved issues. They start reflecting and feel rightly so that they have struggled through a lot of things in their lifetime. They need to work through their outstanding issues and float free. Sometimes they just need to process their experiences and put their lifetime into perspective. This process helps them relive their life moments and get rid of negative feelings such as guilt and shame. They often realise they would love moving ahead in life rather than blaming themselves.

• Many of the elderly have not considered counselling while they were younger due to many factors and the most important one being the stigma attached to the field. Earlier there was an understanding that psychological help or counselling is for mad or crazy people. The only old age mental health problem recognised and accepted by the society was dementia. But today there is more awareness and acceptance of other stressful and emotional state of mind and heart. So we need to understand that everyone makes mistakes so everyone needs some kind of help.

• Experts say that elders are more serious about counselling once they see the benefits and start the process. Old people do understand that their time is critical and they are more clear about defining goals. Hence counselling can enhance their overall sense of well being.

• Usually people end up feeling lonely in old age as there are fewer platforms for social engagements, family ties also reduce, loss of old friendships is inevitable and it is very difficult to initiate new friendships. Hence there is a huge scope for social isolation which results in anger and personal withdrawal from the outside world. This leads to complex emotions which has debilitating consequences on physical health.

Do not let old age impair the quality of your life!

Instead, you should take the leisure time as an opportunity to make new friends, involve yourself in the community services, take up your hobbies and develop new interests that could be gym, sports, cooking, gardening, joining a club of likeminded people, watching movies or concerts if possible spending time with children and getting involved in their activities and involving yourself in spiritual services and activities. It all depends on your interest but you need to keep yourself consistently motivated and be able to live a purpose driven life where you need to get up at a particular time and get on with your day. With all these resources you will feel healthier emotionally, physically, mentally and also socially.

To achieve the above possible resources and combat loneliness as well as other socio-emotional difficulties you need to focus on a few categories like developing a consistent sleeping pattern, while sleeping at least seven hours if possible you should stretch up to nine hours; you need to take care of your diet by reducing your junk and sugar intake, eating food that nourishes you as well as gives you energy, at this age you need to take a multivitamin everyday; try and participate in hobbies that are joyous as well as try and learn things you always wanted to and did not have the time for; wherever you see a possibility of being able to help someone do it as it would positively affect your emotional well-being; if you live alone and have the physical resources you can keep a pet as it will keep you fit as well as create ways of meeting people; laughter boosts emotional and, physical well-being, if you laugh with others it will also create social well being, so laugh as much as you can, exchange jokes, watch comedies and read funny stories; exercise is the best way to boost emotional as well as physical health, it actually works as well as antidepressants, without side effects, you do not have to exercise rigorously, can go for light walks or housework, can find some simple exercises that suit your physical condition; last but not the least, try and meet as many people as you can, even if you do not feel like, motivate yourself as it is tough to manage life alone; further, it alleviates moods quicker than you realise, visit or at least give a phone call to your family often, also it is never too late to make new friends by joining clubs with similar interests.

Old people underuse the facility of counselling the most compared to others in the population. Do not underestimate the capacity of the same it helps you increase your ability to cope and make life adjustments, find deeper meaning in your experiences which can give you a renewed sense of purpose. It also helps you feel connected to your family and friends as well as make new friends and develop new interests. All of this helps you accomplish feelings of relaxation. Last but not the least you feel heard with all your stories defining your lifetime.

If you feel you can relate to any issues expressed in this article, please feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment in order to help yourself get more insights into your life.

Richa Khetawat is a trained Psychologist providing online counselling services in a professionally helping manner to facilitate transitions in life. She has over 10 years of experience helping individuals cope with managing family and relationships issues, stress and anxiety, life transitions, children parenting and adolescent issues.