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.

 

 

Sharon Rostosky and Ellen Riggle: How Same-Sex Couples Can Actively Manage Stress

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Susan Herman, Developmental Editor and consultant for APA Books, spoke with Sharon S. Rostosky and Ellen D. B. Riggle, professors at University of Kentucky. APA Books published Rostosky & Riggle’s book Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community in early 2015.

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.

 

Rostosky headshot

Sharon S. Rostosky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  She joined the counseling psychology program at the University of Kentucky in 1999, where she is currently a professor and director of training.  Her research, published in more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented in numerous workshops for professional and general audiences, focuses on minority stress and well-being in individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer and in same-sex couples.

Riggle

Ellen D. B. Riggle, PhD, is a professor in the departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Kentucky.  She is the coeditor of Sexual Identity on the Job and Gays and Lesbians in the Democratic Process.  She has published more than 60 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and books.

 

More information about the work of Dr. Riggle and Dr. Rostosky can be found on their website: www.prismresearch.org 

SH: Happy Together was released a few months shy of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) that all 50 states in the USA must license and recognize same-sex marriages. What other aspects of the legal landscape have changed since early 2015 regarding same-sex couples?

SR & ER: It’s true that same-sex marriages are legally recognized in all 50 states now. However, there has been an increase in the number of states introducing and passing so-called “religious freedom” laws.  The way that many of these laws are worded effectively gives businesses and institutions the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals and eliminates any legal recourse by the targets of discrimination.

Some states have also introduced legislation that would allow government officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to or perform marriages for same-sex couples.

Probably the most important aspect of the legal landscape are the things that haven’t changed.  For example, it is still legal in the majority of states to discriminate against LGBT people in jobs, services, and housing.  Marriage equality itself does not protect same-sex couples or LGBT individuals from discrimination.

Marriage equality also has not automatically led to equal parental rights for same-sex couples in all states.  Parental rights are still being questioned in many jurisdictions upon the birth or adoption of a child by same-sex couples.

SH: It’s common to hear about things that put stress on couples, like economic uncertainty, the high cost of child care, or addiction to smartphones and social media. Same-sex and different-sex couples, presumably, deal with all these same issues. What are some distinct concerns touching same-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Our research and that of other scholars shows that public debates surrounding anti-LGBT laws increase minority stress.  The current political environment has many uncertainties for same-sex couples and there is a real fear that the progress of LGBT rights will be halted and that the protections enacted in the past few years may be repealed.  This anxiety puts increased stress on couples that they need to constructively manage.

We wrote Happy Together specifically to help couples develop their strengths to deal with this type of environmental stress.

Because same-sex relationships are still stigmatized, same-sex couples are more likely to experience rejection from members of their family of origin. Imagine not having social support from your family, plus having to make the extra effort to set up appropriate boundaries with one or more especially prejudiced family members.

Same-sex couples may also have to expend more time and energy finding community support than different-sex couples.  For instance, same-sex couples may have to work harder to find an LGBTQ-affirmative religious or spiritual community, or an affirmative health service provider.

Same-sex couples also have to negotiate how “out” each partner will be in their respective workplaces, especially if one or both couple members 

lack basic workplace protections like inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Same-sex couples who are parents worry about how their children and family will be treated by neighbors and school personnel.  These couples tend to spend more time than other parents advocating at their children’s school.

When they’re also subjected to prejudice based on racial identities, immigration status, economic disadvantage, disability, etc., same-sex couples can face significant stress.  What we have learned in our research, however, is that despite these challenges, same-sex couples can and do create enduring and satisfying relationships.

SH: In your clinical work, do you see particular strengths emerging from same-sex couple relationships that you might not see as often with different-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Same-sex couples often attribute their relationship satisfaction and longevity to their ability to create meaning and purpose out of their negative experiences.  For instance, same-sex couples might draw on their experience to understand and empathize with other marginalized groups and engage in social activism. Same-sex couples often create “families of choice” and rely on these families for social support, as well as provide support for others.

In our many interviews with same-sex couples over the years, we have witnessed how they cope by using humor and expressing appreciation for their similarities and differences.

We’ve also found that same-sex couples are more likely than different-sex couples to equally share responsibility for maintaining their relationship, by actively talking through and negotiating differences. We think this is because, without strict gender roles, same-sex couples feel more free to write their own relationship scripts.

SH: In addition to seeking out LGBTQ-affirming community resources and helping professionals, what can same-sex couples do to lower their stress levels and build themselves up? happy together

SR & ER: For people who like to read, we of course recommend our books. We have translated 15 years of basic research into two accessible books. Our first one, A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-being, is a resource for recognizing and using LGBTQ identity strengths. The second book, Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, focuses on helping same-sex couples deal with minority stress. Both books are full of conversation starters and exercises.

One exercise in A Positive View of LGBTQ presents a “starter list” of self-care activities for readers to consider and build upon.

One activity in Happy Together guides couples to reflect on times when they anticipate rejection at work and then discuss how that fear affects their couple relationship. We give examples about how to take anxious thoughts and construct more helpful messages that can help them cope.

When we talk to same-sex couples who have been together 25, 35, 45 years, they tell us that one ‘secret to their success’ as a couple was building on their shared values and engaging in experiences that kept them learning and growing together. Shared values may involve recreational activities, spiritual/religious/educational pursuits, and commitments to making the world a more compassionate and supportive place through artistic expression, volunteerism, or community organizing.

Making a commitment to social change and social action is another powerful way to counter stress. We’ve met couples who engage in social activism on behalf of other oppressed minorities, women, people with AIDS, homeless youth, animals, the environment, food security—and that type of engagement is part of what makes their relationship flourish.

A good piece of advice for same-sex couples (and for anyone) doing social justice activism is to balance it with self-care and couple-care.  Couples must keep their relationship healthy and strong because, as Dr. Glenda Russell reminds us, we must take the long view or a “movement perspective” when it comes to bringing about social change.

 

 

 

 

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

 

May Releases from APA Books!

becoming brilliantNEW from APA LifeTools®!

Becoming Brilliant

What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children

by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD

In just a few years, today’s children and teens will forge careers that look nothing like those that were available to their parents or grandparents. While the U.S. economy becomes ever more information-driven, our system of education seems stuck on the idea that “content is king,” neglecting other skills that 21st century citizens sorely need.

This book offers solutions that parents can implement right now. Backed by the latest scientific evidence and illustrated with examples of what’s being done right in schools today, this book introduces the 6Cs—collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence—along with ways parents can nurture their children’s development in each area.

 

CBT Techniques & StrategiesCognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques and Strategies

by Amy Wenzel, Keith S. Dobson, and Pamela A. Hays

Intended as a stand-alone companion to the APA video series of the same title, this volume brings together three esteemed leaders and trainers in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to elucidate the key principles, frameworks, and therapeutic processes that are practiced by effective cognitive behavior therapists. In engaging language, this slim and approachable volume follows the typical sequence of delivering CBT to a client, with chapters focusing on assessment, case conceptualization, core beliefs, behavioral strategies, problem-solving strategies, cultural responsiveness, and techniques to address distorted thinking.

 

 

 

couple relationshipsCouple Relationships in the Middle and Later Years

Their Nature, Complexity, and Role in Health and Illness

Edited by Jamila Bookwala

What factors influence the nature and quality of today’s older couple relationships, and what are the complex links between relationships and health? In this cutting-edge volume, the authors present the latest theoretical, methodological, and empirical perspectives in the field of middle-age and older couple relationships. The chapters cover a broad range of topics, including the impact of health concerns, loneliness, chronic disease management, couple negotiation of everyday tasks, coping across the lifespan, and the prevalence and visibility of nontraditional older couple relationships such as same-sex relationships and “living apart-together” relationships. Implications for couples therapy and policy are included.

 

   

Supervision essentials CBTSupervision Essentials for Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy

by Cory F. Newman and Danielle A. Kaplan

In this concise guide, Cory F. Newman and Danielle A. Kaplan offer an evidence-based approach to supervising practitioners of cognitive–behavioral therapy that is based on two key concepts: feedback that focuses on both strengths and weaknesses; and demonstrations, such as role-playing exercises and videos of the supervisor’s work with clients, that model experiential knowledge. Using helpful case examples including excerpts from real supervision sessions with real clinicians-in-training, Newman and Kaplan show how trainees can learn to think like effective CBT practitioners, whether conceptualizing cases and matching interventions to the individual needs of each client, or exhibiting comprehensive and subtle understandings of cultural competency and professional ethics.

 

 

supervision essentials existential-humanisticSupervision Essentials for Existential-Humanistic Therapy

by Orah T. Krug and Kirk J. Schneider

This concise guide applies the principles of Existential-Humanistic therapy to the practice of clinical supervision. With the skillful use of case examples—including transcripts and analyses of real sessions with a real clinical trainee—the authors utilize the key ingredients of the E-H therapeutic approach, including empathy, acceptance, and genuineness, to model how trainees can create safe, collaborative, and supportive relationships with clients.  E-H supervisors help trainees learn to enter their clients’ self-constructed worlds, using their own personal contexts to develop responsiveness to clients, while also cultivating the “presence” that enables genuine encounters and real therapeutic change.

 

 

trauma informed treatmentTrauma-Informed Treatment and Prevention of Intimate Partner Violence

by Casey T. Taft, Christopher M. Murphy, and Suzannah K. Creech

Most models of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and training programs for practitioners who work with individuals who engage in IPV fail to take into consideration the impact of trauma on relationship functioning. This book gives mental health professionals the knowledge and skills they need to provide effective treatment to these individuals, the majority of whom have a history of exposure to trauma. The authors draw on their extensive clinical experience as well as extensive research to help clinicians assess and intervene both with military personnel and civilians who belong to this “hard to treat” population.  Their positive approach to treatment addresses trauma-related issues in those who experience IPV as well as those who engage in it.  Clearly written and approachable, the book provides guidelines for intervention with groups, couples, and individuals, providing much-needed answers to both common and unexpected clinical challenges.