Talk Therapy and How It Can Help Aging Seniors

BY: 

INSPĪR SENIOR LIVING TEAM

Each individual approaches their retirement years differently. For some, this period of transition may be met with excitement and anticipation, while others worry about the physical and mental effects of aging. Throughout the aging process, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. However, some periods might be more difficult than others. Losing a spouse or friend, learning to transition into a new home, feeling isolated, or dealing with an illness or chronic condition can severely impact one’s mental health and quality of life. Healthcare providers often recommend senior talk therapy or psychotherapy to help navigate these difficult periods. 

What is talk therapy? According to the American Psychiatric Association, “psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illness and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and increase well-being and healing.” Psychotherapy—like talk therapy for depression—can be beneficial in many situations, especially as older adults go through the aging process.

When Should You Consider Seeing a Therapist?

There are many different reasons to try senior talk therapy. While some older adults may be having difficulties with age-related life changes, others simply want to adopt a new mindset or perspective. Below are some of the different situations in which an older adult might choose to work with a therapist.

When experiencing medical issues

According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 60% have two or more conditions. Chronic pain can interfere with daily life and change how you function. However, senior talk therapy can help you deal with pain and allow you to live a happier and healthier life. In addition, those who have a stroke or are at risk of stroke or those who have a family history of heart disease might also choose to work with a therapist to help cope with fear and the side effects of experiencing a medical condition.

For cognitive and mental health concerns

Older adults often experience normal age-related memory loss as they age. However, some adults may develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that can interfere with daily life. Other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, are also common among older adults and can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. Senior talk therapy can provide ways to cope with mental health concerns and conditions.

Issues that come with old age

Many older adults experience grief and loss in some form during their retirement years. For some, the loss of independence, death of a spouse or friends, or dealing with mobility issues can cause these feelings to come to the surface. Ongoing therapy sessions can help them work through their feelings.

Benefits of Talk Therapy 

Physical and mental changes that come with aging can result in irritability, changes in appetite and sleep quality, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness. When these conditions go unaddressed, they often get worse. Speaking to a psychotherapist can help you identify issues and improve your overall quality of life. Below are some of the benefits that come with working with a therapist.

  • Helps you adopt an optimistic mindset. It’s easy to get stuck in the “it is what it is” approach to life, especially when it comes to aging. However, older adults need to feel fulfilled in life, just as much as someone in their younger years. Therapy can help identify aspects of our lives that aren’t serving us and work to improve our mindset.
  • Teaches new sources of meaning. Retirement provides the opportunity to tap into other parts of our personalities. As we age, there’s more freedom to explore hobbies and other interests we might not have had time for in our past. Working with a therapist can help with this transition and encourage us to get more out of life.
  • Teaches you how to ask for help. Learning how to ask for help can be a lifelong lesson. It’s common for older adults to associate asking for help with losing their independence. However, that’s rarely the case. Therapists can help older adults build a solid support system without losing autonomy.  
  • Creates a vision for the future. We always need a vision for the future, even as older adults. Knowing what you want your future to look like can be a powerful source of self-esteem and encouragement. 
  • Assists in a change of behaviors. Sometimes our habits can contribute to our problems. Speaking with a therapist can help bring awareness to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, allowing us to regain control. 
  • Provides support and validation. Counselors provide support and guidance by creating a non-judgmental atmosphere where clients feel safe to express themselves. Good therapists will show compassion, understanding, and empathy.
  • Aids in self-discovery. Seeing a therapist will provide you with the opportunity to understand yourself more deeply. By understanding your values, personality, and beliefs on a deeper level, you embark on a journey of self-growth and healing.

How to Find a Therapist

If you’re interested in working with a therapist, it’s important to find the right fit. A good way to find an appropriate therapist is to ask a friend or trusted family member for a referral or start researching online. Below are a few tips to consider as you do your research.

First, it’s important to check your medical insurance to see what type of care is provided. For those age 65 and older, Medicare covers individual and group psychotherapy with doctors and other licensed professionals. If you use another type of insurance, you might consider calling your patient advocate to see what’s covered.

Once you understand what is covered by your insurance provider, you can start researching providers in your area that work with your insurance type. Online review sites are helpful when deciding if a counselor might be right for you. Psychology Today’s Find a TherapistAmerican Psychological Association’s Locator, or Zencare are all great resources to consider. You can search providers by location, specialties, and age group specialization.

Most providers offer a free phone call appointment, which provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions, go over any specific concerns you might have, and ask about their schedule and payment options. Remember, it might take meeting a few different counselors to find the right fit.

Prioritizing Mental Health at Inspīr

At Inspīr, all healthcare is a priority, and they are all managed through our Integrated Care Model. We offer mental health services for all of our residents. By taking care of their mental health, our residents can live more joyful and fulfilled lives.