Relocating And Reinventing Can Still Be a Big Adventure When You're a Senior

It's been seven and a half years now since my husband and I moved to the Washington area — enough time to have perspective on the benefits and the costs of moving away from the community that had been our home for 30 years and starting over.

I have come to realize that there is something confining about being known for decades by pretty much the same cohort, the same friends and acquaintances. I have learned that we adapt to the lens through which we are perceived. Capacities that were not evident to that particular cohort tended to remain undeveloped.

Read my full article at The Washington Post.

Weighing whether your mobility will last as you age: When you’re on the fence about pricey home modifications

"There are a lot of stairs here," Joan, our real estate agent, told us. Repeatedly. As she showed us around home after home in the Washington area, she kept commenting that the many stairs we were looking at in older Colonial-style homes might not be the best choice for a couple in their mid-60s. Maybe we should think about homes with fewer stairs.

There were two problems with her suggestion: First, there weren’t ranch-style homes in the areas where we were looking. Maybe there were none. And second, who did she think was old?

Read my full article at The Washington Post.

The emotional toll of decluttering and downsizing your home

In my 30s, just as I began acquiring (kids, house, furniture for said house, etc.), I noticed that my parents suddenly stopped acquiring and began divesting. It seemed like an abrupt shift, as if a switch had been thrown. Almost 40 years later I now find myself doing the same.

At that time, my parents were moving out of their capacious, midcentury ranch-style home in Massachusetts where they had raised kids and added on rooms and renovated and landscaped several times. They needed to get rid of things to make the move to more compact digs in a sunnier clime. I was focused on getting my kids into the best school system, updating our ancient kitchen, purchasing some dining room furniture — doing what we could with our modest financial resources...

Read my full article at The Washington Post.

Why I can’t throw things out

For most people a time comes when they must sort through, consolidate and prune their "stuff."

This often painful process is prompted by a move to another home, a house, a condo. If you are a senior maybe the process involves a downsizing to an apartment in an “over 55” community. Maybe a "stager," a professional getting your house ready for sale, is pressing you to disappear your "stuff" so that a prospective buyer can imagine their home on the relatively blank canvas of your cleared-out space. Or Marie Kondo has gotten to you.

Read my full article at The Washington Post.

Trauma, Memory, and Flashback

The weather has turned. The days are short and it is darker altogether. A slippery mat of wet fallen leaves accumulates at the end of my street. The palette outside the window is no longer intense, rather muted, soft. I notice for some reason I am happy to see that it is November 1st. It is still warm, but I need a sweater, sometimes a scarf and hat as I head outside for my walk. The rhythm of the seasons and the calendar is always welcome. I imagine a new beginning, a renewal as holidays march along, the Jewish New Year, harvest holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas soon.

For individuals dealing with the effects of trauma, this is not always the case. The changing of the seasons, the setting back of the clock, the flipping of the calendar are sometimes triggers for an awful yesterday: a tormented, tormenting yesterday.

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Grief, Loss, and Shame

Some of the most transformational, not to mention, painful losses for me and for many I have known who have been in treatment with me, have not been around death and dying, but the more mundane losses. These losses do not have rituals, religious or secular, prescribed for them. There is no public acknowledgement, no condolence cards, no meals arriving at the door, not even people being especially nice to you for awhile. These losses may come with secrecy and shame even an intense loneliness: a feeling that no one else has had this happen to them. Ever.

Losing a job in a lay off may come with shame. Having a child that does not go to college, or fails in college, might be experienced as both a crushing loss and something to be borne in secret. Parents whose children act in ways very contrary to their values or to the values of their family and community experience shame. Some parents whose children declare their love for same sex partners may experience a whole host of very painful feelings. Even illness can have this aspect of shame attached to it. Individuals who are very proud of their health, their athleticism, their good looks, and their good luck can experience shame when they become ill... Read more

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What Good Can It (Psychotherapy) Do?

The question above is one that I encounter frequently in one form or another from friends, potential clients, close relatives. It takes various forms:

  1. What can they tell me that I haven't already thought of myself?
  2. Life will take its course no matter who I talk to. My partner will die and I will be alone.
  3. I'm going to die anyhow.
  4. Talking won't bring her/him back.
  5. I'll still have cancer/multiple sclerosis/end stage heart disease.
  6. There really is no way out of my marital/familial/work dilemma.
  7. My depression is a result of a chemical imbalance... Read more

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Learning How To Die

Before I die, I want to learn how to die.

As I celebrate the last birthday before 70, I have reason to be thinking about this process. I am old enough now to have watched my parents die, as well as a dear friend, a lifelong mentor and parental surrogate, and a couple of patients from my psychotherapy practice. Each loss has advanced my place in line. Each has taught me something about suffering, living with pain, and the ubiquitous fear of death... Read more