Life Transitions for the Elderly

Seniors often have to encounter transitions. Either the death of a loved one, or leaving work, or even moving to a new city/home. Unfortunately such transitions are actually harder for this demographic and it is exactly these people who are more likely to encounter it. So how can these – often inevitable – transitions – be facilitated?

According to an article written by Daniel B. Kaplan PhD, MSW, Barbara J. Berkman, DSW, PhD, entitled ‘Effects of Life Transitions on Older People,’ much of the way seniors deal at least with retirement is connected to attitude. They found that around a third of retirees encounter a difficult adjustment period but that means that two-thirds do not. Some even take early retirement or have been planning for this stage of their life for many years. Those who struggle more with the transition have issues including reduced income, lack of routine and a change in their social status. There is counseling available as well as retirement planning services.

The matter of relocation has a similar outcome. It’s about attitude. Some people want to relocate (perhaps to be closer to their children and grandchildren) while others are more reluctant to but need to downsize for example. It seems according to the researchers above that in general, men have a harder time with this than women. Social workers can be of assistance in determining the best relocation option. Often, a sense of a lack of control is the only obstacle in making relocation so difficult. Also for those looking to move into a senior home, it is advisable to take a tour of it ahead of time, to reduce the stress of not-knowing anything about the new place.

Bereavement is hard for anyone at any stage. But for elderly it could be worse as already this demographic is more socially isolated than others. For example younger people invariably have jobs, a social circle, events, and an entire network of friends or at least acquaintances. This is much less so for the elderly, who – as they age and encounter increasing difficulties with mobility – tend to stay at home with their spouse much more. Thus they have very little else when their partner passes on. In addition, they could have spent over half a century building a life with this one person.

So while life transitions are an inevitable part of life, there are resources available to assist the elderly in these matters.