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.

Christopher Keys: On Community Psychology

by Kristen Knight

Communities can assume many forms—from online forums to residential neighborhoods, from large collaborations to small groups of people. The APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, defines community psychology as a discipline “that encourages the development of theory, research, and practice relevant to the reciprocal relationships between individuals and the social systems that constitute the community context.” But these ideas may seem a bit abstract—so we consulted an expert in the field to put them in context.

Christopher B. Keys served on the editorial board of the APA Handbook of Community Psychology—released last October as part of the APA Handbooks in Psychology ® series—along with fellow Editors-in-Chief Meg A. Bond and Irma Serrano-García and Associate Editor Marybeth Shinn. The handbook spans two volumes, and contains 63 chapters contributed by dozens of authors from around the world. It was the first comprehensive work to be published in the field in more than 15 years. Here, Dr. Keys describes community psychology and talks about why it matters.

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.

Chris Keys picture 2013

Christopher B. Keys, PhD, is a professor emeritus and former chair of the psychology departments at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University. He has also been a founder and chair of the community psychology doctoral program in the psychology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a professor and codirector of the advocacy and empowerment of minorities program in the department of disability and human development at the school. He was the founding associate dean for research in the college of science and health at DePaul University.

Dr. Keys’s research has focused on organizational approaches to community psychology, organizational empowerment, community research issues, and the positive community psychology of disability, and in addition to lecturing and conducting workshops all over the world, he has coauthored and coedited more than 125 articles, chapters, and books on community psychology and disability-related topics. 

KK: How do you define community psychology?

CK: Community psychology is the study of the relationship between person and context and the action taken to improve that relationship by creating a more socially just social contract. More specifically, community psychologists investigate and take action to support and empower persons who have less than their fair share of society’s resources and the variety of community contexts in which they live and by which they are influenced.

KK: How does community psychology apply in our day-to-day lives?

CK: Community psychology examines current social problems and develops constructive ways to address them. Consequently, community psychologists engage in research and action on a variety of important social issues, such as improving educational opportunities, preventing homelessness and enhancing the mental health of those people who are disadvantaged by virtue of society’s marginalization of members of selected groups. These include, but are not limited to, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, people with minority sexual orientations, people of color, and/or women. For example, if you are seeking to improve an after-school program in a low income neighborhood that enhances urban children’s wellbeing and academic performance, then consult relevant work on these issues in community psychology.

KK: What are some of the most important issues that the field is addressing today, and has this changed since the formal recognition of the field more than 50 years ago?

CK: In addition to the topics mentioned above, community psychology issues of particular import today that endure from early in the field’s history include

  • taking an ecological perspective to better grasp the context in which social problems develop and have impact;
  • thinking critically to challenge orthodoxy, such as the assumed preeminence of evidenced-based practice for assessing the quality of interventions; and
  • valuing participation of community members and those from other disciplines as well as partnerships with community organizations in research and action.

Some topics that have grown in importance over the last 50 years since

community psychology was formally established in the United States include (a) celebrating diversity in its many forms; (b) understanding the socioemotional side of community including the psychological sense of community, social capital, and social support; and (c) emphasizing human strengths and resilience in seeking to understand and empower those who face societal prejudice and discrimination.

KK: How do the author demographics and range of topics discussed in the handbook reflect the field?

CK: The handbook authors are a diverse group in terms of demographics, arena of work, and discipline. A notable number are from diverse disciplinary perspectives, nations, races and ethnicities, sexual orientations and career stages. In their diversity, the handbook authors represent the demographic richness of the field of community psychology in the 21st century. The topics addressed by the 63 chapters in 2 volumes include the theoretical foundations of community psychology, the dimensions of context, the methods for research and community change, approaches to social issues, working with diverse groups, emerging challenges, controversies and opportunities, and practical issues related to becoming and being a community psychologist. The handbook also includes topics suggested by experts consulted in an open meeting at the Fourth International Conference of Community Psychology in Barcelona in 2012, and by other thought leaders. Taken together, these topics, while not exhaustive, constitute the most comprehensive coverage of the field to date.

References

Bond, M. A., Serrano-García, I., & Keys, C. B. (Eds.-in-Chief), Shinn, M. (Assoc. Ed.). (2017). APA handbook of community psychology (Vols. 1–2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

September Releases From APA Books!

adults with adhdNEW FROM APA LIFETOOLS®

When an Adult You Love Has ADHD 

Professional Advice for Parents, Partners, and Siblings

by Russell A. Barkley, PhD

In this book ADHD expert Russell Barkley explains the science behind ADHD and how you can tell if your spouse, partner, friend, adult child, or sibling may have it. He shows how to guide your loved one toward the right treatment, and what to do if he or she doesn’t want treatment. Adults with ADHD can be successful, achieve their goals, and live out big dreams—and you can help. You can set boundaries to manage your own emotional and financial stress, too. Here you will learn practical steps for helping your loved one accept and manage their disorder, and pursue paths in life where ADHD might not pose such a big problem.

 

community psychAPA Handbook of Community Psychology

Volume 1: Theoretical Foundations, Core Concepts, and Emerging Challenges

Volume 2: Methods for Community Research and Action for Diverse Groups and Issues

Editors-in-Chief Meg A. Bond, Irma Serrano-García, and Christopher B. Keys

This two-volume handbook summarizes and makes sense of exciting intellectual developments in the field of community psychology. As a discipline that is considered a half-century old in the United States, community psychology has grown in the sophistication and reach of theories and research. Reviewing the chapters of the APA Handbook of Community Psychology, the reader will readily notice several themes emerge: Community psychology’s ideas are becoming increasingly elaborated; its theory, research and interventions more situated; and its reach in both thought and action, more expansive. Ideas that may have seemed much simpler when first proposed—for example, community, prevention, and empowerment—have come to pose challenges, contradictions, and opportunities initially unspecified and perhaps unimagined.

 

career pathsCareer Paths in Psychology

Where Your Degree Can Take You

THIRD EDITION

Edited by Robert J. Sternberg

Now in its third edition, this bestselling volume has set the standard for students seeking to find an exciting career in psychology. Its comprehensive coverage spans more careers than ever, with the vast majority of chapters new to this edition. An advanced degree in psychology offers an extremely wide range of rewarding and well-compensated career opportunities. Amidst all the choices, this book will help future psychologists find their optimal career path. The chapters describe 30 exciting graduate-level careers in academia, clinical and counseling psychology, and specialized settings such as for-profit businesses, nonprofits, the military, and schools.

 

sexual orientation and gender diversityHandbook of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Counseling and Psychotherapy

Edited by Kurt A. DeBord, Ann R. Fischer, Kathleen J. Bieschke, and Ruperto M. Perez

This timely volume explores the unique challenges faced by SM and TGNC clients today.  Experts in the field examine how the concepts of gender and sexual orientation are both socioculturally-constructed and can be informed by biologically-focused research, thus setting the stage for flexible, affirmative mental health services.  Chapters cover a range of practice-focused as well as theory-based topics, including complexity in identity, minority stress, and stigma management.  With concise summaries of research findings and detailed case studies, contributors provide an intersectional understanding of how practitioners can work within rapidly-changing political and legal contexts to uncover and affirm clients’ multiple social identities, and build resilience.

 

supervision competency-basedSupervision Essentials for the Practice of Competency-Based Supervision

by Carol A. Falender and Edward P. Shafranske

This concise text describes a trans-theoretical approach that has been the gold standard in supervisory practice for nearly two decades.  The authors show readers how to identify, assess, and track the knowledge, specific skills, broad attitudes, and human values that undergird a series of professional competencies spanning the breadth of clinical practice.  Case examples illuminate the supervisory give-and-take as trainees develop competence in areas such as professional values, sensitivity to individual and cultural differences, ethical and legal standards, self-care, scientific knowledge and methods, applying evidence-based practice, and more.  From practicum, to internship and general practice, the competency-based approach offers clear training goals that organize and focus the supervisor’s attention where it’s needed most.