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Stress and The Older Adult

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Most people would agree that we live in an age of stress. Furthermore, there is evidence that younger people, such as those between the ages of 18 to 35, experience more stress than older adults who are retired or near to it. The speculation about why this gap exists ranges from the notion that older adults have learned how to cope with life all the way to having less responsibility because the kids have grown up, moved out and how have their own families. In other words, older adults have a level of resilience as compared to those who are younger. However, this does not mean that older people are stress free. So, what are the stresses that are experienced for this older group?

The economy is more of an issue than in years past. It takes significantly more money to live and thrive after retirement. Therefore, there are worries about whether or not money saved and invested will last through the remainder of their lives. Now, this is especially true when people are living longer than ever before. Then, there are concerns about how best to use the leisure time created by retirement. Here, too, finances play a role because being short of money may impact on the number things that can be done. For example, the hope that an older person had that they could travel may have to be modified or eliminated.

Another stressor for older adults is the issue of health. While age increases the chances of declining health. Exercising and keep fit can stave off many health risks, there are no guarantees. Age, health and coping with the loss of old friends and relatives add to the danger of depression. As loved ones pass away there is the inevitable process of mourning. Perhaps the most difficult loss of all to have to tolerate is the death of a spouse. All of this can increase feelings of anxiety about isolation and loneliness.

At the very same time, older people have developed good coping strategies to deal with the ups and downs of life. Many people use exercise to maintain health and have fun. Some of the types of exercise go beyond using the gym into playing sports. Golf, tennis and other forms of competition provide a good outlet for many. Besides sports competition, many people join with friends in going for long walks or jogging together in large groups. In addition, it feels good for many to spend time with family. Enjoying the benefits of grand parenting mitigate loneliness and provide another means to have fun. What once was the responsibility of parenting is now the leisure of playing with grandchildren. Leisure time allows those interested to attend Church or Synagogue services and the opportunity to engage in community activities through their religious institution.

The main point is that, at any age, people face stress. There are excellent coping strategies and skills that help reduce the harmful effects of stress. It is suggested that the reader to our self help section to learn more about how to reduce stress.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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