In starting this new blogging endeavor, I thought it would be best to provide a brief summary of my background and passions as a counselor. I recently completed my masters in mental health counseling this past May and am now pursuing my passion of counseling the senior population. My interest in working with older adults grew from a combination of experiences with my family, as well as my undergraduate and graduate work.
I grew up with parents who were much older than the parents of my peers. Furthermore, I was always very sensitive to the feelings of my family members, witnessing the struggles that later life brings with first my grandparents and then my own parents. Through my skills of empathy I felt the feelings of loss that my loved ones were experiencing, not only loss in terms of death of dear family and friends, but loss of mobility, cognitive functioning, and health. In addition, the emotions that accompany the transitions that come with later life; retirement, social role changes, and changing perspectives on one’s control and future goals. These changes and challenges seemed insurmountable to my young mind, leaving me to worry about growing old. However with that worry, I grew a deeper curiosity in older adults and ways I could work to help them with the challenges of later life.
During my masters program in counseling, I had the fortunate opportunity of being the first ever student to intern with an agency that works primarily with the older adult population. Upon graduating, I was hired by this agency and gratefully continue my work counseling older adults and their families. Through my experiences with my internship and now with my job, I have encountered an endless array of personalities, cultures, and presenting problems. Therefore, counseling older adults brings similar challenges to any population in terms of the diversity of skills and strategies needed to best help each individual. However older adults also bring a very unique challenge to the counseling profession because of what will sure be a continuing need for care and understanding.
According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics in 2008, 39 million individuals living in the United States were 65 or older, which makes up 13 percent of the population. Furthermore, individuals of the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) began turning 65 in 2011, with projections of the older adult population reaching 72 million by 2030, accounting for 20 percent of the United States population. In addition, in 2008 there were 5.7 million individuals 85 and older, with it projected that by 2050, 19 million individuals will make up the 85 and older age group. As the geriatric population continues to dramatically increase, it is becoming ever more crucial to focus on aspects of serving the aging population.
The need for research, services, and the development and implementation of new models of care and interventions has never been more urgent for older adults. I believe that working with older adults will provide a great deal of opportunities for counselors in years to come, but furthermore, understanding the why of caring for older adults is what continues to drive my passion, and hopefully will act as a catalyst to the passion of new, up and coming, counselors. For many of the older adults, especially the numerous individuals I have who are 85 and older, my focus becomes understanding the person they have been and still very much are, and continuing to help them maintain and even give back that person, that can be lost with the overwhelming transitions and issues that come with the later life. It is really driven by my core belief that the person you are is fully alive until the last breath you take, and therefore that person deserves to be cared for, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually.
My blog’s purpose will serve to act as a space where I can share my experiences working with older adults; the skills, strategies, and interventions I have used, and resources to learn more about counseling older adults. I look forward to sharing more of my passion with fellow counselors! Please feel free to email me about any of my blogs or to share your own experiences, ideas, or thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Kehoe is a licensed counselor working with the older adult population. It is her passion to serve the older adult population through counseling, research, and advocacy efforts, with the hope of raising awareness to the growing needs of older adults and their families.