Q: I now have many older clients. How can I help them make the most out of their lives as they age?
A: More people are living into very old age than ever before. Centenarians are commonplace today, with more than 70,000 in the United States alone. Assuming that longevity trends hold, most of us can expect to live well into our eighth or ninth decade. In fact, if you ask a typical person how long he or she expects to live, the likely answer will be 85 years (almost a decade beyond our current average life expectancy).
The question of interest in the 21st century has turned from "How long will I live?" to "If I'm going to live a long time, how can I be happy in the process?" To be sure, the pitfalls to happiness and contentment loom large as the average person finds him- or herself living beyond the 80-year mark, when diseases of dementia including Alzheimer's are more threatening than ever. Even if you're lucky enough to avoid these dreadful conditions, no one escapes the diminution of memory, physical health, and day-to-day functioning that are part of advanced aging. Included in this collection of trials are the inevitability of caregiving and the loss of loved ones to death.
From a practical point of view, it would seem that growing old portends misery, not happiness. However, in spite of the harsh realities of aging, most of us believe that old age is still worthwhile. This optimistic attitude has been fueled…