Whilst the younger generation are being taught and encouraged from an early age that talking about our mental health and how we feel is a positive thing, we older folk (whatever older is these days!) can still be imprisoned in the stiff upper lip trap.
In my experience of working with people over 55, the benefits of shaking off those embedded, often familial, psychological and emotional shackles can be lifechanging. Feeling free to talk in 2021 is as natural as breathing, you would think. Yet I hear these phrases too often:
"I shouldn't complain - there's plenty more worse off than me."
"There's no point now - I'm too long in the tooth to change."
For the older generation I've been fortunate enough to work with, their positive response to feeling listened to, valued and seen as a person rather than as a role (spouse, parent and grandparent) has been inspiring, emotional and eye-wateringly revealing.
Turning a chat into an opportunity to reframe a deep-rooted belief that education is only for children or that talking about intimacy or sex in your 60s is shameful, brings about a sense of freedom and relief for many.
It gives people an appetite to make changes and find joy in a world that has, thus far, made them feel invisible and inconsequential. I remember only too well when I was in my 40s being told by a colleague in her 50s to make the most of it as I would soon become invisible. I must admit, I deflected that comment pretty quickly at the time. When I reached that age I was suddenly hit by the significance of that previously disregarded magni momenti.
In a world where vintage is embraced if applicable to wine (even gin these days!) or a piece of furniture but not to a fellow human being - getting older can feel like winding down into oblivion rather than a continuation of growth, personal development, experience and the enthusiastic searching for fulfilment and happiness.
Therapy can empower the older client to feel that being selfish and putting themselves first is a necessity and not something they feel should be smuggled through the metaphorical back door. So no, you’re never too old to talk.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.