Nancy Schlossberg: On Aging Gracefully

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. Here Andrew Gifford, Development Editor at APA Books, interviews Nancy Schlossberg, a well-known authority on aging and life after retirement.  Nancy will be speaking at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC (5015 Connecticut Ave NW), this Sunday, April 23, at 1:00pm to kick off the release of her new book, Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age. See more about the event here!

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

--Photo by Rod Millington

–Photo by Rod Millington

Nancy K. Schlossberg is an expert in the areas of adult transitions, retirement, career development, adults as learners, and intergenerational relationships. Past President of the National Career Development Association, Co-President of a consulting group TransitionWorks, she is a Professor Emerita, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, College of Education at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Schlossberg has delivered more than 100 keynote addresses, and has been quoted in the cover story in USA Today, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Reader’s Digest, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, U.S. News and World, Consumer Reports.  She has appeared on PBS In the Prime, Derek McGinty’s national talk radio show, CBS This Morning, CBS evening news and is featured in a 90-minute PBS Pledge Special June, 2007, “Retire Smart, Retire Happy.”

AG: In many ways, your latest book feels like part of an unofficial trilogy, starting with the smash hit Retire Smart, Retire Happy which provided a primer on how to adjust to retirement. It was followed by Revitalizing Retirement, which discussed how retirees could reshape their identity and play a vital role in their community.  Too Young to Be Old takes the lessons from the first two books and really emphasizes the idea that retirement is not an ending but a beginning. In it, you discuss relationships, finding your place, embracing adventure, and aging well. Could you tell us a little bit about your own experiences as an author, a psychologist, and a retiree who, herself, is aging very well throughout the process of writing these three books? Do you also see something of a “trilogy” here?

NS: I had not thought of the three books as a trilogy but now that I think about it, each book was an outgrowth of the other. So maybe it is a trilogy. It started with Retire Smart, Retire Happy. I had thought retirement would be a piece of cake. After all, I was an “expert” on transitions and had retired voluntarily. However, retirement for me posed unexpected challenges so I decided to learn how others fared. The result was Retire Smart, Retire Happy. That book became the centerpiece of a PBS special by the same name.

I had many opportunities to continue interviewing and learning about retirement. I realized there was another book which described the paths people follow and the need to strengthen their psychological portfolios. The result was Revitalizing Retirement. This book elaborated on what I had learned in Retire Smart, Retire Happy.

I then became involved in a number of aging projects including writing a transition column for a local magazine. Over time, I realized there was one more—the last—book to focus on aging. This new book broadened my concerns to cover more than retirement. And thus Too Young to be Old was born.

AG: Much of the inspiration for your writing on retirement and aging comes not just from your own experiences, but from the people you’ve worked with in your daily life. Especially after the first book came out, you’ve been engaged by fans and concerned retirees who have come to you with questions about what is often a difficult life transition. What are some of the encounters that have had the most impact on your philosophy and your writing?

NS: Perhaps the most important factor was my own transitions. I found the decade of my eighties filled with transitions—I retired, I became a caregiver, then a widow. I had several surgeries and orthopedic issues. I recovered, began dating and actually went on line, met a retired lawyer, and we now live together. We then moved to a retirement community.

All these transitions make the image of someone in a rocking chair fade.

In addition, many who read my columns reached out saying how they were helped. That made me realize I wanted to keep writing and sharing mine and others experiences.

AG: When Retire Smart, Retire Happy first came out, it coincided with your own decision to retire after nearly three decades teaching counseling psychology at the University of Maryland.  When did you start thinking about ways to retire and age well? Had this been on your mind even in your youth? Or was it your own life transition that spoke to you?

When I was in my late sixties, I went to a retirement party for a much older woman. She was still productive and dynamic. By accident, I left the party walking with two deans. One said, “She should have retired years ago. She is too old to teach and advise.” Right then and there, I knew I would leave before anyone said that about me. And thus began the process of disentangling first from teaching, then advising. My husband and I decided to move to Sarasota where we used to vacation. Since retiring, I have written 4 books and become active in the community. This year will be the first time I have not had a book contract since 1984. So now I will really be retired. I am a bit anxious about it. It is time to reread my own retirement books!

AG: What advice do you give retirees and the soon-to-be-retired about handling this difficult transition?

NS: If someone is struggling to figure out a new path, think about regrets. Is there anything the person wishes he or she had done? If so, is there any way to turn the regret into a plan? That can get someone thinking about a new dream, a new plan.

too young to be oldAG: Too Young to be Old is the first of your titles to really delve into the issue of ageism. America, certainly, is an aging nation. The number of Americans age 55 and older will increase dramatically between now and 2030 – from 60 million today (21 percent of the total US population) to 107.6 million (31 percent of the population) – as the baby boomers reach retirement age.   You’ve written these three books over the course of a decade. What changes have you seen in that time? Is ageism on the rise or the decline? How can individuals embrace aging, and combat ageism?

NS: Ageism is all around us. Even those who are demographically in the old or old-old group exhibit age bias. As the president of AARP wrote, we need to “disrupt aging.” The first step is to be honest about our own ageism, then confront others when they make derogatory comments like, “I live in an old person’s home,” “I just had a senior moment,” “Look at that old lady,” etc.

AG: Do you have some advice on how the children and grandchildren of retirees can help their elders age well and embrace life and happiness after the retirement transition?

NS: Family is very important to most older individuals. So it is important to stay connected. Many of the people I interviewed for Too Young to be Old resented their adult children “bossing” them. Therefore, give the benefit of the doubt to older individuals, give them as much freedom as possible, show respect and help them maintain their dignity.

AG: What is the best thing about aging?

NS: I love the freedom of being 87. I say my age with pride. I never expected to live this long and continue publishing. I like my white hair but must admit the wrinkles surprise and dismay me when I look in the mirror. It is important to remember George Vaillant’s advice–stay young at heart by learning something new, trying something different, and embracing the time you have to spend with family.

April Releases from APA Books!

too young to be oldNew from APA LifeTools®!

Too Young to Be Old 

Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age

Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD

As the “Baby Boomer” generation reaches retirement age, an unprecedented number of Americans will soon be 55 or older. More so than ever before, the question on our minds is: How do I age well? In this accessible and upbeat guide, Schlossberg builds on the concepts she pioneered in her popular books Retire Smart, Retire Happy and Revitalizing Retirement with an engaging take on positive aging. Looking at the basic issues of aging–health, finances, relationships, and how to live more creatively–readers will be able to think about and develop a deliberate plan to age happily.

 

trauma psych

APA Handbook of Trauma Psychology

Volume 1. Foundations in Knowledge

Volume 2. Trauma Practice

Editor-in-Chief Steven N. Gold

The APA Handbook of Trauma Psychology is an essential resource to specialists in trauma who need comprehensive information, to practitioners who seek to familiarize themselves with the range of approaches for trauma assessment and treatment, or for students as a graduate level or advanced undergraduate level textbook.

 

 

frailty suffering vice

Frailty, Suffering, and Vice

Flourishing in the Face of Human Limitations

Blaine J. Fowers, Frank C. Richardson, and Brent D. Slife

This work addresses the human condition in its entirety and discusses the pathways to flourishing in light of the everyday limitations that we all must face. How do we realize our best selves and flourish in the face of our frailty, vice, and suffering? The authors address what they call the “breathless optimism” of positive psychology in this unique and approachable volume filled with original research and case studies. This book explains how human dependency, limits, and suffering are not just negatives to be overcome. Rather they are part of our journey towards healing and development.

 

couples on the brink

Helping Couples on the Brink of Divorce

Discernment Counseling for Troubled Relationships

William J. Doherty and Steven M. Harris

Therapists and counselors can find themselves at an impasse when working with “mixed-agenda” couples—where one partner is considering divorce, while the other wants to preserve the marriage and start therapy. Such couples are a common and difficult challenge in clinical practice.

To help confirm each partner’s agenda before taking decisive steps toward either reconciliation or divorce, this book presents a five-session protocol for helping couples understand what has happened to their relationship and each person’s contributions to the problems. The goal is to gain clarity and confidence about a direction for their marriage.

 

mentalization-based children

Mentalization-Based Treatment for Children

A Time-Limited Approach

Nick Midgley, Karin Ensink, Karin Lindqvist, Norka Malberg, and Nicole Muller

Mentalization-based treatment (MBT) promotes clients’ ability to interpret the meaning of others’ behavior by considering their underlying mental states and intentions, as well as clients’ capacity to understand the impact of their own behaviors on others.  This book is the first comprehensive clinical introduction to using this approach with children, 5-12 years old, who suffer from emotional and behavioral problems including anxiety and depression.  Chapters examine problem assessment and case formulation, the therapist’s stance, and treatment termination. The guide also includes a chapter-length case illustration and an appendix that lists measures of reflective functioning in children and parents, as well as validation articles.

 

 

What is Geropsychology?

David BeckerBy David Becker

Aging is a fundamental part of being human. Although we all wish to live long and prosper—as the saying goes—and to continue enjoying the good things in life, the realities of aging can be daunting. Our bodies and minds weaken as the years wear on, rendering us more susceptible to medical problems like Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. We also find ourselves coming to terms with mortality as our loved ones and the cultural icons of our youth pass away.

Geropsychologists aim to understand the aging process as it relates to mental health.  Practitioners in this area help older adults negotiate these challenges and improve their mental health and overall well-being.

Even though the aging process has been a subject of contemplation throughout human history, geropsychology itself is fairly new. Belgian scholar Adolphe Quetelet is credited as the first to write about aging from a psychological perspective in his 1835 treatise Sur l’homme et le développement de ses facultés (which translates to English as On Man and the Development of His Faculties; Birren, 1961).  However, geropsychology didn’t really start to flourish until after World War II. This rise was marked by the founding of both the Gerontological Society of America and APA’s Division on Adult Development and Aging in 1945. Only just recently, in 2010, did APA officially recognize geropsychology as a specialty area of practice. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) also began granting board certification in geropsychology in December 2014.

Some have suggested that the slow emergence of this field may have to do with pseudoscientific myths about aging that persist in the public consciousness, accompanied by the fact that geropsychology brings us face-to-face with uncomfortable realities that we might otherwise prefer to avoid thinking about (Birren & Schroots, 2000).

GeropsychologyThe most significant reason for geropsychology’s recent emergence is undoubtedly the rising population of older adults. According a December 2015 report by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), there are currently 46 million adults age 65 or older living in the U.S., which is more than a twofold increase from 1960 when there were less than 20 million adults that age. The PRB expects this growth trend to continue in the next 50 years, estimating that this figure will more than double to 98 million in 2060. This increase in the 65+ population means that mental health practitioners will be seeing more and more older clients in the coming years.

Although adults in their 60s and 70s are generally quite healthy thanks to modern medicine, clinical psychologist Patricia Areán (2015) notes that older adults still face a number of unique health issues that require specialized care and that most mental health practitioners lack the knowledge and expertise to adequately address these needs. Clinicians working with older adults are also more likely to encounter a number of unique ethical dilemmas (Bush, Allen, & Molinari, 2017). When treating clients with dementia who have limited decision-making capacities, for instance, it can be challenging to balance the need to respect their autonomy with the need to assure their welfare, especially when outside parties like family members and other healthcare professionals are involved.

The recent emergence of geropsychology, therefore, is a matter of necessity that has also been accompanied many new advances in the last decade. One of the most noteworthy contributions is the Pikes Peak Model for Training in Professional Geropsychology, which has helped define the attitudes, the knowledge, and the skills that are necessary to become a competent geropsychologist (Karel, Molinari, Emery-Tiburcio, & Knight, 2015). APA also recently revised its Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Older Adults in 2014. With this rapid expansion of clinical knowledge, mental health practitioners will be well-prepared to meet the special needs of the growing population of older adults.

 

References 

Areán, P. A. (2015). Treatment of late-life depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse. https://doi.org/10.1037/14524-000

Birren, J. E. (1961). A brief history of the psychology of aging. The Gerontologist, 1, 69–77. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/1.2.69

Birren, J. E., & Schroots, J. J. F.  (Eds.). (2000). A history of geropsychology in autobiography. https://doi.org/10.1037/10367-000

Bush, S. S., Allen, R. S., & Molinari, V. A. (2017). Ethical practice in geropsychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000010-000

Karel, M. J., Molinari, V., Emery-Tiburcio, E. E., & Knight, B. G. (2015). Pikes Peak conference and competency-based training in professional geropsychology. In P. A. Lichtenberg, B. T. Mast, B. D. Carpenter, & J. L. Wetherell (Eds.), APA handbook of clinical geropsychology: Vol. 1. History and status of the field and perspectives on aging (pp. 19–43). https://doi.org/10.1037/14458-003

Online Dating: Blessing or Curse?

me4by Katie ten Hagen

Let’s talk about dating. And by dating, I mean: online dating.

Online dating is both loved and reviled. Sites like Tinder and OKCupid make meeting new people easier than ever. But sifting through thousands of matches, starting and abandoning conversations like half-written novels, and repeatedly ditching bad first dates, can be draining.  Many yearn for a return to “simpler” days, and want to meet someone the “old fashioned way,” no matter how nostalgia-based and romanticized this yearning may be.

But still, these sites are still thriving. Those who are exhausted from the search for love keep going back, time and time again. What makes us do this? Why do we put ourselves through the heartbreak and stress again and again?

heart-1990963_1920There’s no simple answer other than that this is how the world is evolving. We shop for everything on the internet, from food to clothes to things to do. So why not love as well?  There is undeniable appeal to being able to “preview” a person before really trying them out. Why waste a night on a bad date if you can establish from a profile or a few sentences of conversation that there’s no possibility? Even sites like Tinder, where a match is based simply on mutual physical appeal, allow for quick weeding-out based on preliminary conversation.

Some may claim online dating is just a game, or a cure for boredom. People may join simply to peruse, with no intention of starting a relationship or even meeting someone. I had a friend who joined Tinder solely to talk to people about their dogs. (This was a bit disingenuous; she was in a happy, committed relationship, and the people she was “matching” with were presumably looking for slightly more than for her to just ask “what kind of dog is that?” But to be fair, her profile did clearly (and only) state “I swipe for dogs.”)

But online dating sites aren’t just for millennials. In fact, the main characteristics that people are looking for on dating sites don’t seem to vary by age. One study, (Menkin, Robles, Wiley, & Gonzaga, 2015) of users ranging from 20-95 on eHarmony, “found that users consistently valued communication and characteristics such as personality or kindness more than sexual attraction.” The researchers also found that “there was little evidence that older users valued companionship more,” and that older users valued sexual appeal just as highly as younger users.  This finding is echoed in the work of Nancy Schlossberg, whose LifeTools books Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life, and Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose examine themes of “positive aging.”  Her forthcoming book, Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age (to be released in April, 2017), tackles the world of online dating for retirees head-on.

At the same time, Menkin et al. cautioned that their results were “similar to the finding that across the life span, people generally want to experience more low-arousal positive emotions (such as the warmth and comfort companionship provides) compared to high-arousal positive emotions (such as the excitement associated with sexual attraction).” This came as a surprise to me when I first read it, but makes sense upon reflection; plenty of people like to flirt with no intention of anything more.

Perhaps this explains people like my friend, who only swipe for dogs.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

References

Menkin, J. A., Robles, T. F., Wiley, J. F., & Gonzaga, G. C. (2015). Online dating across the life span: Users’ relationship goals. Psychology and Aging, 30(4), 987-993. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039722

 

March Releases from APA Books!

confidentiality limitsConfidentiality Limits in Psychotherapy

Ethics Checklists for Mental Health Professionals

by Mary Alice Fisher

 

Can therapists keep their patients’ secrets? Should they? Psychotherapists are careful to safeguard information about their clients, but in some instances, they may be legally or otherwise compelled to disclose information, even without client consent. This little confidentiality manual walks readers through this complex topic, using the author’s easy-to-follow six-step Ethical Practice Model.

 

 

cost of racismThe Cost of Racism for People of Color

Contextualizing Experiences of Discrimination

Edited by Alvin N. Alvarez, Christopher T.H. Liang, and Helen A. Neville

 

In this book, leading scholars examine the felt experience of being the target of racism, with a focus on mental and physical health—as the result of particular racist encounters as well as across the lifespan—in addition to group contexts such as education and the workforce. With its skillful synthesis of voices and approaches, this work should appeal to a broad range of scholars and practitioners in clinical psychology, as well as ethnic studies, sociology, and public and allied health.

 

 

dark side personalityThe Dark Side of Personality

Science and Practice in Social, Personality, and Clinical Psychology

Edited by Virgil Zeigler-Hill and David K. Marcus

 

Dark personality traits are connected to a host of behavioral and interpersonal problems. To better understand and address these problems, this book unites personality psychology and clinical psychology to provide an interdisciplinary taxonomy of dark personality traits. It expands upon the “Dark Triad”—narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism—to encompass traits that have largely been ignored or not characterized as dark (e.g., spite, authoritarianism, and perfectionism).

 

emotion aging healthEmotion, Aging, and Health

Edited by Anthony D. Ong and Corinna E. Löckenhoff

 

Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan.

 

 

 

supervision essentials systems approachSupervision Essentials for a Systems Approach to Supervision

by Elizabeth L. Holloway

 

This book describes the dynamic interplay between various supervisory “systems,” including the client, trainee, supervisor, functions, learning tasks, and setting. Understanding these systems and the interplay between them is the foundation of a thriving supervisory relationship.