How ageing can affect our psyche and emotional health 99



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There have long been fanciful claims made or solutions sought to delay the onset of ageing, most often from the physical perspective. But what impact does ageing have from a psychological and emotional perspective?

In earlier generations, those in the 60+ age group, would traditionally be planning for retirement but today, for a variety of reasons, this is not necessarily the case. Typically the transition to retirement has been seen as most difficult for men, as women were seen as having broken careers (if a career at all) as they took time for family duties, and were therefore used to doing ‘other things’ apart from being in the workforce. However, baby boomers have been a part of their own revolution when it comes to workforce change, and in workforce history have championed the age of working/career women. Women have carved out careers and stood close to – if not alongside their male counterparts. Baby boomers have paved the way for astute, ambitious, skillful, dedicated and emotionally intelligent women to play their part in society.


So are we ready to retire at 60 or 65, and what is there in life after a career?

For women with children, there is often anticipation at the prospect of caring for and sharing in the delights of their grandchildren, or spending time planning their retirement with their partner. For single women, however, the situation can look very different, particularly if they do not have strong social and/or sporting links.

Given that we live in a world of constant change, as one nears the end of their working life there are numerous changes that have become well entrenched. Firstly, there can be that sense of being overrun by young bright up-and-coming ‘kids’, who, with the world at their feet, are oblivious to the fact that mature workers have much to contribute. Brought up with technology in their hands, these kids may well be more adept in some areas, but they also lack the life experience that you have in spades! Unfortunately, they don’t know what they don’t know! Organisations are also changing, and for some people, the roles they once performed meticulously have now been discarded, leaving you to question what all of your hard work was for!

This highlights the importance of our sense of purpose – a fundamental element in everyone’s being. This is sometimes referred to as our ‘Why?’ and is the driving force behind why we do what we do, who we are, and what we stand for. We all need a sense of purpose to keep us motivated and to drive our self esteem. Without it, we lose our sense of self worth, and find it hard to see a reason for anything and everything. Worse still, without purpose, we are in danger of spiralling in a negative trajectory, which can lead to depressive symptoms, a loss of confidence, and the will to enjoy this new phase of life.

In essence, we all need to feel ‘useful’ in some way, whether we are socialising and contributing to stimulating conversations, helping out friends or family, or contributing through the workforce. We are social beings and social contact is essential.


Physical changes

Whether we are ready to leave the workforce, are forced out of it, or are forced to work for longer than planned, at the 60+ stage of life, people often experience physical changes. The painful impacts of degenerative conditions such as arthritis is common, making life that much more difficult. As limbs and organs fail to function as they used to, the onset of advancing age speaks loud and clear – and we do not like it! Women have the added complication of menopause and all that accompanies it, including hot flushes, irritability, weight gain and poor sleep, and as all of these pressures mount, it can be devastating to find that their ‘usual self’ has gone! With all of these major changes – the work situation, our body and moods behaving differently, it seems like the world is against us! This can trigger a grief and loss reaction attributed to the loss of the ‘old self’, which sees one slide down to a place of despair. For single women, this can seem even more difficult if they do not have a supportive partner to reassure them or the distraction of family needs to re-focus their purpose. Hence, single women can find themselves feeling isolated and alone, and women more than men, tend to thrive on human interaction. It is important to understand that dealing with all of these concerns is common, and that this is not something afflicting only you.


How to manage changes

To manage these changes, the first step should be to check it out with your doctor. From here the key is to find a new focus. Sporting or interest groups are a great way of developing new networks, which can be instrumental in assisting individuals find new purpose and fulfillment. These can be varied, including sporting or charity groups, creative arts and U3A. Spending time with like-minded people is a great way to re-connect with your community, and connecting with your community gives a sense of belonging which fosters contribution, and highlights a new purpose. This is a step that should ideally be taken before leaving the workforce to ensure a smooth transition from working life to the retired lifestyle.

Whilst accepting the ageing process is part of the cycle of life, understanding how you are thinking about the situation is pivotal to how you are feeling. Having ‘normalised’ your feelings in comparison with others at a similar life stage, it is important to examine your beliefs and expectations, and where appropriate, adjust them. A classic example here is body image: the goal should be to maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle with consideration to you general health and physical capabilities – not to look and feel like you did when you were 35! Once you have this sorted, examine your self-talk, and challenge the negative chatter. Re-frame your thoughts in a positive and realistic manner for your current lifestyle, and learn to develop a positive perspective wherever possible.

Understanding why you feel the way you do, together with the fact that you are not alone in this, is the precursor to managing the psychological impacts of the ageing process. Learning how to adopt positivity and optimism in your thinking can re-direct you through the next stage of a fulfilling life.

Thanks to Merryn Snare, MAPS for this article. 


Guest Contributor

  1. my Myers-Briggs personality assessment suggested I was a Creator/Innovator – so I tend to suggest new ideas for others to carry forward – and have championed many successful projects that way

    pending retirement I’ve found just responding to online articles/forums allows me to prompt others to action – I often find a unique comment I’ve made has been followed by a journalist’s topic piece in the next couple of days – I participate in world-wide discussion forums with sometimes emotional responses from all – so even if my mobility is reduced, thanks to the internet I can still feel engaged and participating in the world and contributing my ideas to make the world a better place.

    Of course – people in pain who can’t see beyond their own hurt – I’ve been there – is probably a health issue – you are responsible for your own health decisions – and folk who continue to make unhealthy choices – and then later want to complain to all and sundry about their poor health – sorry I have other things to do – with people who enjoy life – if you just want to complain – feel free to do that – alone.

  2. NO ! Its a breeze !!

    1 REPLY
    • Well done Pam, it must be a pretty daunting thing to face your first solo trip. I am lucky to still have my husband to travel with, but I have a lot of friends who are on their own, the biggest drawback to solo travel seems to be the single supplement, unless you are willing to share, which I don’t think I would like to do. Hope you have a wonderful trip.

  3. Percy you might call it a breeze, but when someone calls you expletive old woman…….. It tears away your self esteem. Then it’s. It a breeze.

  4. I never thought I would lose my health before I could even retire. It’s a shock and when you have been a strong hard worker all your life it totally shatters any feelings of self worth.

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  5. I guess I really crossed (rather than ticked) most of the boxes when I retired at 62. I moved to the other side of the country to an area where I only knew my daughter’s friends, so limited support system. Having been a gypsy most of my adult life, I don’t really find this a problem as I live in retirement villas (not a village per se) and have made friends here. I joined Meetup and am now busy 3 days a week, plus I have “Grandma Duties” on Wednesdays. Tomorrow I’m going on my 8yo granddaughter’s school excursion as a helper. Yes, I get lonely on weekends when I only talk to my computer, but it doesn’t get me down. In 4 weeks I’m heading to Florida to cruise the Caribbean and then continue on to UK where I’ll spend a couple of weeks seeing some friends and relations. This will be my first totally solo venture, but hey … I’ve taken the plunge and booked everything. And yes, I’m a bit scared!! I guess I’ve really come to like myself, and that’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

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    • Pam you are so brave I not an solo adventure like you truely are an inspiration when I go away I always go with family maybe this hold me back a bit but enjoy your trip

    • Thanks everyone. Cruising on my own is fine. I’ve done several, but it’s sitting alone at dinner that gets me. You can only stare at the wallpaper for so long, and if you take a book it really looks like you don’t want anyone to intrude. I’ll let you all know how it goes. 🙂

    • I dislike the ‘eating dinner alone’ bit too. And have never got used to it. At times I would have dinner early so that there weren’t that many people around. At breakfast and lunch I’m fine. I have found that the iPad is better than a book – I just flick around, look around, go back to flicking around.

  6. Reading this would make you depress ! Feeling good about yourself is number one and not reading crap is number two !

  7. I have found it hard as we left city and moved to the coast. gave up work then my mum got sick and passed away and then I had health problems through the stress of everything.My husband loves it where we are but I have not settled yet and find it hard not having our friends around us. Still see them but not as much. It is so much harder when you are older.

  8. I find that I’m not able to socialise I lost my husband 8years ago and I still feel like half of me is gone I have a hearing problem that makes it hard to socialise I live in an over 50s village and find the people very involved in themselves been here 5years and have not one person that I could call a friend life is so different now and at 72 it’s hard to make friends now

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    • I think you are right Gail and no one understands this till it happens to them that is if they really love that person they have lost

    • Joy, I feel for you. It is sad your husband has passed but you are still here for a reason. It seems to me you have a lot to offer, your friendship could make a difference to someone else, including you. There is so much to see and do, take a chance, say hello and smile. I wish you well.

  9. I was handling aging well but in the last year and a half, with the Abbott government continually telling us we are useless and essentially saying we should be culled and are to be punished if we live a few more years rather than dying, I had felt my mood go down. It’s hard to stay up when the continual message has been spewed out so that we now get abused in public places.

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    • It’s very sad you feel that way . I haven’t heard any of those words spoken by the government . We must all interpret conversations differently . I have seen a younger person write words to
      that effect , however that is all . I retired last year and no one else has made me feel worthless for it , and they couldn’t unless you let them . My husband continues to work ( his choice ) he said he is not ready yet , that’s ok too. At this age we should make our own choices .

    • I agree Carolyn, you can dig yourself into a hole and be negative, or fill yourself with optimism as the article states and try new things no matter what Government is in. It’s up to you. I’ve never experienced negative comments from Generation Y . I worked with plenty of them and they think I’m great and I embrace their youth. My children are Generation Y and they have a lot of positive attributes . As I said it’s all up to your outlook

    • Absolutely agree. Everything in the world is Tony Abbotts fault. Even the cyclone on Vanuata was his fault!

    • We’ve been retired for 13 years and I can honestly say they have been some of the best years of our life. We moved away form Sydney and have made some wonderful friends, we have more time for our three girls and their families. We don’t have a lot of money (having retired early) but boy, do we enjoy our life. We have never experienced ageism from anyone and have never regretted not working. Life is what you make it and you can choose to be either a glass half full, or a glass half empty kind of person.

    • Abott is an idiot he’s always been a show pony and that’s insulting the horse who is a noble creature, he on the other hand is an embarassment with his foot in his mouth or his head in his rear end,!!!!!

    • I know a number of elderly women who have been abused when out in shopping centres. I assume that anybody who loves Abbott must be wealthy. I am not and I’m going to be seriously affected by what Abbott and Morrison are planning.

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