Is this what you think of when you think of human development and growth? As a person with no interest in having children and who has struggled to reconcile her feelings about attachment theory, I spent the bulk of my education in developmental psychology reading about ageing, particularly old age.
Before we get to old age… what’s my problem with attachment theory? I mean, it’s one of developmental psychology’s most abiding theories and taken as near fact nowadays, isn’t it? Allow me to quote myself from a paper I wrote for my developmental psychology class:
Attachment theory is an abiding, elegant, and deceptively simple theory – one applied across many psychological interventions. But who decides what secure attachment is? Who decides how theory is woven into social policy, and the systems that determine our definitions of mental health and wellness, and how they can be weaponized against those who do not fit? Canadian social policy with regards to Indigenous people has created a modern history whereby Indigenous peoples were moved from their land, stripped of their culture and family, returned to their communities with no kinship ties, and then had their children taken from them. This is not the past for Indigenous people (Kennedy, 2018, p.8)
It’s a hot topic for me so feel free to read the paper here if you like.
But old folks were particularly interesting to me over the course of developmental psychology and we do not often talk about how ageing is viewed from a counselling perspective or how the aged are ignored from mental health care in general.
When considering ageing in the context of counselling there are a number of possible possibilities including formal care and loneliness interventions. Regardless of the causal mechanisms for loneliness there are a number of proposed interventions to assisted older adults facing loneliness both in and outside of formal care situations:
Age/ability appropriate group physical activity
Opportunities to cultivate and strengthen friendships
Psychoeducation, group and individual counselling surrounding grief, coping skills, & significant life transition (including illness or retirement)
Community sites that foster intergenerational support and trust (Courtin & Knapp, 2017; While, 2017; Ellwardt, et al., 2015, McFadden & McFadden, 2011; Stirling, 2010).
Each of these interventions should be undertaken in adherence with ethical standards, within a holistic care plan to ensure no harm is done, in a manner that is age/ability appropriate, and one that ensures cultural sensitivity.
Full references and my discussion of nature/nuture around ageing can be read here.