By Sr. Mary Jane Beatty, CDP, MSEd, LMFT
I myself am a “seasoned” citizen and counselor. I like the term “seasoned.” To me, it is a wonderful description of what having lived a long while adds to our world. The lives we’ve lived have seasoned us. The years we have lived have enriched us with the “seasonings” of time, love, experience, success, failure, learnings, life, death and so much more. As seasonings enhance the flavor of food, so have our many years and experiences “seasoned” us and educated us about life.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to say, “If I only knew then, what I know now.” We are wiser today. Not only are we wiser, but we aren’t done yet. We have a lot we still want to do; to experience and accomplish in the time that is still ours. Can you name some of the spices (of life) that have made you the beautiful “seasoned” person you are today?
I have been with Anchorpoint for 31 years. At this point in my counseling career, a greater number of my clients are themselves “seasoned” citizens.
Am I Too Old for Counseling?
I’m going to let one of my clients tell you about her experience in counseling:
“When I leave your office after a session I feel stronger, more confident and able to tackle the challenges life brings me. Seniors, in some cases, lose their support person(s) and either don’t want to depend on family/friends or just don’t want to bother the people they have around. Talking to a counselor gives one a chance to talk honestly, get honest feedback and hopefully cope. I am forever grateful.”
You are never too old to try something new. All you have to do is search the Internet to find that out. The Internet is filled with hundreds of offers for seniors to improve, learn, experience and grow. Attending and catering to what senior citizens are looking for has become a thriving and very lucrative business. Examples include:
- Road Scholar: Lifelong learning is the active pursuit of education (formal or informal) that extends far beyond formal schooling and into retirement. It is voluntary, self-motivated and often focused on personal development. Adopting a philosophy of lifelong learning can expand your social circle, encourage critical thinking and independence and strengthen your connection to the world around you.
- Lifetime of Learning at La Roche University: If you are 55 or older, La Roche University invites you to participate in its Lifetime of Learning Program. Learning can be a lifelong endeavor, not something ending at a certain age. Lifetime of Learning courses are not workshops or enrichment classes; they are college courses available at a reduced rate that do not carry credits. This means you will not be required to take tests or complete assignments. You will be able to take full advantage of La Roche’s University’s academic curriculum without any of the stress.
How Is Counseling for Seniors Helpful?
Attending to your mental health can be one of the best things you could do for yourself. Benefits senior counseling can provide include:
- Emphasizing strengths.
- Developing independence.
- Encouraging decision making and action taking.
- Improving self-esteem and the ability to advocate for yourself.
- Being able to address faith and spirituality as part of your counseling process.
- Discovering deeper meaning to your life.
- Adding another support system to your life.
What Issues Does Senior Counseling Address?
Some of the common issues senior citizens share in counseling are:
- Dealing with the death of a loved one, who died recently or many years ago.
- Ongoing feelings of loneliness and sadness.
- Consistent trouble sleeping or concentrating.
- Persistent feelings of anxiety.
- Feeling depressed for more than a few weeks.
- Struggling with some of life’s transitions – retirement, health problems, needing to move to a smaller home or senior residence.
- Unresolved family conflict.
- Fear of dying.
- Managing life during the pandemic.
As you can see, seniors are coming to counseling for many different reasons. Some are addressing personal issues they’ve been meaning to deal with for years. Others want to share about, and come to terms with, the specific struggles they are experiencing such as aging, health issues, anxiety and depression. Some need an outlet for their grief as they begin or continue to deal with the death of a loved one. And still others are addressing the difficulties in their relationships with a spouse, family member or friend. The ages of my “seasoned” clients range from 55 to 83.
In addition to what brought them to counseling, my clients are aware Anchorpoint is a Ministry. This means, in addition to professional counseling, we are also able to address (upon request) spirituality as part of their counseling and explore that dimension of their life. This involves topics as faith, prayer, God and ways to continue their spiritual growth. Some clients will ask prayer be part of our time together.
What Can You Expect from Senior Counseling?
We at Anchorpoint believe if you understand what happens in counseling, it will be easier for you to reach a decision on whether or not therapy is the right fit for you.
- The Counseling Process: Counseling is a “conversation with a purpose.” It is not meant for advice giving. You are the expert on yourself and your life, not your counselor. The counselor strives to meet you where you are and to see the world through your eyes.
Sessions are about helping you to learn about yourself, become more self-aware and giving you the tools and knowledge to make positive changes in yourself. Counseling is a process that involves your active participation and commitment to the therapeutic process. The goals of counseling are determined by you and your counselor together, usually during the first session. “Homework” is assigned periodically to help you attain the goals you have as well as strengthen your insight and ability to achieve your goals.
- The Process of Change: Change takes time and can be difficult. You didn’t become the person you are today overnight, and you won’t make significant changes overnight either. Change comes slowly, and part of the focus is making small changes.
It is important to remember setbacks are part of the change process. Often times, by changing your perspective on most circumstances, you will have the most success. You cannot control all the events of your life, but you can control your reaction to them.
Senior counseling follows these guidelines while addressing your mental health needs as a “seasoned” citizen.