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Aging, Elderly and Geriatric Psychology

Geropsychologists help people develop coping skills to manage the stressors related to aging. Possible stressors include having to move to a facility for care, having to use a walker to prevent falling, having adult grandchildren living with the senior rent-free, or being fined by the city because their trash container was not removed from the curb by the designated time on trash day. Life stressors can have a differential impact on retired adults. The differential impact is in part due to physical vulnerability and can also be related to financial stress. Those are just two examples of vulnerability related to aging. Other examples include declining health, declining sensory function, bereavement related to the passing of many friends and family members, physical challenges in getting out of the house to participate in usual activities, and loss of social support networks which can be related to retirement and/or moving away from one's family community to live closer to children.  Read More on What Does A Geropsychologist Do Anyway


Retirement is one of the most challenging transitions we experience during our lifetime. Retiring from one's career, early or late, does not need to be traumatic or lead to deterioration in the physical or mental spheres, as is often predicted. Distress following retirement results from some individuals' failure to stay in contact with the world in a meaningful way, and to solve the problems posed by that lack of contact.

In order to effectively cope with the challenges of retirement, you have to be comfortable with the concept of play as an important and vital part of human life. Thus, well before you reach retirement age, it is essential that you inventory those activities in the past that have given you pleasure, as well as consider other activities in which you may not have participated, but have desired to try someday.

In addition to fun, many people still want to be productive and useful citizens during retirement. As you approach retirement age, it can be helpful to explore such opportunities as volunteer work, enrollment in adult education courses or even college or graduate study, or experiment in fields of work far removed from your past career. Part-time employment is another option.

How can people make this transition as smooth as possible? The most important idea is that of planning for the transition ahead of time. Too many people assume that having an abundance of free, unstructured time will magically create a feeling of joy. Those who have the most satisfying retirements have put a lot of thought into how they will use their time. They have set up plans for each of the following areas:

  1. Basics of living: This includes how much income will be available, where we will live, whether or not a part-time job will be needed, how we will manage our investments, how often we can travel, etc.
  2. Mental needs: Because we usually have been mentally engaged and challenged at our job, it is important to replace this with new areas that stimulate our mind. Taking local classes, learning how to do new household projects, studying subjects we have always been interested in are ways to keep our minds engaged.
  3. Social needs: Creating opportunities to share our time with others is very important, whether this is done with relatives, close friends or new people that we meet.
  4. Fun: Even if finances are tight, having fun, appreciating the little things in life and finding opportunities to laugh, dance or play is very important. Include activities that will give you physical exercise as well.
  5. Personal or spiritual growth: After retirement, we are often more aware of death and more interested in exploring our personal beliefs. It is also a time we may want to give back to others some of what we have been blessed with, through volunteer organizations, teaching, community, activities, etc.