Are you having a difficult time seeing yourself age? Do you frequently feel depressed as you see your body slow down and change? If so you’re not alone. Many people who pass the age of 50 seem to have a difficult time with aging. To help understand why aging is difficult for some people and how anyone can happily cope with aging, I have interviewed therapist Nancy McKelvey.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“My academic training is in Social Work with a BA from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and a Masters from the University of Denver. I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Colorado in 2005. Then there’s the “life training” garnered over enough years to be covered by Medicare. Also, I completed 5+ years on the Senior Team in community mental health.”
“Additionally, I am trained in Level II EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing), which I use, with nearly all my clients. Everyone has some form of negative and limiting belief about themselves, typically courtesy of childhood experiences. Reprocessing those beliefs gives clients a “new lease on life”, and that definitely includes the older person.”
“My private practice is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I partner with clients from ages 18 onward. I’ve actually worked with a 93-year-old lady for relationship issues with her son and wife. My specialties address the person in the situation, and the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves ‘” regardless of age.”
What is it about aging that’s most difficult for people?
“I’ve come to realize that physical aging does not change the person within that body. Generally speaking, the thought processes remain intact; it’s the body that doesn’t manage to follow-through. It’s an ongoing disappointment and challenge to reconcile with the fact that we just cannot do all of the things we used to do. That doesn’t mean we have to give up living.”
“I’m wondering at what age number does “society” conclude we are no longer valuable individuals? Compared to other cultures where the elders are respected for their experience, ours seems to view older folks with a sense of decreasing value and viability as time goes on. That doesn’t mean we have to buy into that concept.”
“The human spirit needs to feel valued, as having a purpose for being, and a sense of belonging. So the aging folks are caught in a double bind ‘” that of societies discounting and that of being retired and out of the work force. Retirement adjustment requires redefining one’s self. It requires developing new connections and new ways to feel valuable and purposeful ‘” which, admittedly, can lead back to that dichotomy of the mind and body interaction.”
How can someone happily cope with aging?
“Having a healthy self-esteem is a vital part of managing aging issues. (And it is never too late to get one!) Cultivating the reality that “age is an attitude” and doing all that the body allows goes a long way toward coping. More and more, research shows us the importance of keeping active – in every sense of the word. Rather than capitulating to the “can’t” of aging, look for alternative means to accomplishment. Find a professional who will listen, empathize and offer support for other ways to view life events. Avoid isolation; talk with your doctor about depression and anxiety.”
“Aging certainly can amplify negative attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that have been somewhat “in the background” for many years. See this as an opportunity to relinquish them and enliven one’s self. This is one “should” I can endorse! I think it was Henry Ford who said: ‘Think you can or think you can’t – either way you’ll be right.'”
What type of professional help is available for someone who is having a hard time coping with aging?
“Happily, there are more programs to train providers in geriatric needs, and earning a certificate in geriatric care is increasingly happening. There are many websites that address elder needs. There are many in-home assistance providers for physical shortcomings; a natural by-product of these services in that of human interaction and company. There are agencies that provide visiting nursing care when appropriate. ‘Senior Centers’ are becoming very prevalent in our towns and cities. And of course, there’s mental health counseling.”
“At the same time, often a significant challenge is to get folks to realize they do have control over some things in life, and act on it. Examples would be to recognize the need for assistance, give up the belief that all is hopeless as well as the idea of stigma in seeking counseling. In some instances, finding a Medicare provider and managing the co-pay is discouraging. And yet, someone can assist in locating providers on the Internet. Or better yet, if one is not Internet savvy, make this an opportunity to learn about it. After all, computers are not going away, and who wants to behave like an ‘oldie.'”
“Much of what we experience in aging can be categorized as “loss.” Loss of status, financial security, health, loved ones, and pets ‘” and while all is a “natural” part of life, the frequency of events for aging folks can be staggering. There are professional counselors to assist and guide; utilize them.”
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who is trying to cope with aging?
“Why not create a “Bucket List” that is realistic and doable ‘” focused on can versus can’t?”
“How about ignoring what others think of us ‘” age and all ‘” and expand our real selves?”
“Overwhelm, anxiety and depression are common companions for older people. How about allowing that depression and anxiety are NOT character flaws, and finding treatment?”
“It is completely natural and desirable to review how we’ve lived our lives. The risk is that of getting stuck in regret and remorse. When you look closely, realize that they are born of a knowledge we didn’t have at the time ‘” or we would have done it as we see it now. How about allowing yourself to be grateful for everything you have managed and accomplished?”
“In the long run, it’s not about what happens to us that counts ‘” it’s how we deal with it. And, as a mental health counselor, I want to emphasize that we do not have to do so alone. Go for it!”
Thank you Nancy for doing the interview on how to cope with aging. For more information on Nancy McKelvey or her work you can check out her website on www.figureitoutcounseling.com.
Is Stress Keeping You Awake At Night?