Do people really change? Or is it more of a problem in adapting or transitioning from one developmental stage to another? I ask this question because of the recent behavior of the elderly that I have been noticing of late. Upon vacationing at my mother’s retirement home she had build 7 years ago in a well populated and popular adult community near Hilton Head, one of the discussions was the rise in sexually transmitted diseases. She is a retired public health nurse but she didn’t find this out by reading her professional publications that she still subscribes to. And NO she did not contract one. Her twin sister’s physician raised an eyebrow while making small talk when my mother and her sister (my aunt) were there for a follow-up visit for my aunt who was having some recent health problems after some exploratory procedure she had. My mother accompanies her to a lot of these as they are very close; well they are twins so that’s part of it. So back to the subject of my mother’s community now known as a “city” of ill-refute.
She laughed as did I but I am well aware of this growing trend as I was listening to the county nurse facilitating the communicable disease training I attended last year for my credentialing requirements for the agency I work. Apparently, the fountain of youth, so to speak, is all the erectile dysfunction medications on the market. So, I was pondering the question, if these men were womanizers in the past, I guess they are sort of picking up where they left off. So my word to the wise is, age may slow a person down somewhat, but not if there is a medication out there for it. Add this to the growing list of counseling issues that are bringing this population, many for the first time, into counseling, health care reform and the growing aging population from the baby boomers, behavioral health care counseling for the elderly is a growing occupation and niche. I am not an expert, not yet anyway, but I think it may behoove me to become knowledgeable of counselor competencies for the elderly. As an educated guess I think it would entail:
1. Theories of lifespan development
2. Addictions, particularly that of prescription drugs and alcohol
3. Relationship and marital counseling
4. Career counseling, namely, second-career and career transitioning, and
5. Community resources for referrals to financial planners, health care, and housing.
I have to admit, this population is one that I would not say that I have been interested but it is becoming more and more inviting if not intriguing. Older persons are refreshing. When you think about it, it sort of gives you a whole new outlook on growing old. Or should I say growing young at heart.
Karen Bates is a counselor, addiction specialist, and a doctoral student at Walden University.