As a coach, one of my roles is facilitate my clients trust their ability to deal with life challenges. One of the ways I do this is through developing skills that will help them develop mental resilience or the ability to cope with stress and life challenges. As the report produced by Community Links Looking Forward to Later Life states, by encouraging older people to develop their mental resilience, we will be encouraging greater mental well-being.
From the age 70, rates of depression rises sharply. This has a strong impact on mortality rates. A key risk factor for mental health problems in later life is lack of social ties and relationships. Protective factors for mental health include living in a supportive and enabling physical environment and having social ties.
When I work with someone who is worried about getting older without children, we'll explore how they could start to build their mental resilience now and importantly, how they might begin to build up some of those aspects of life which support good mental health and happiness in later life. Social ties, relationships and contentedness is absolutely crucial - and some of the ideas that clients come up with when we explore this issue have included:
- Nurturing relationships with children and young people of friends and family. Many young people love to have adults in their lives you are non-judgemental and who they can turn to.
- Brainstorm clubs and activities that we either engage in now OR that we might wish to get involved in when we are older that engage people from across generations. Choirs, church groups, residents groups, etc.
- Considering our living arrangements and thinking about where we would like to live in the future that would nuture inter-connectness and feeling part of the community.
Some of the work I do with clients to help them with stress which include teaching them simple reduction techniques and tools can help people deal with stress and depression at difficult transitions at certain points in our life.
Alongside working with people individually, I very much agree with people from AWC that the government and society needs to take on work the issues. As the Community Links report states that as a society we need to develop structural tools to help older people (and older people without children) in particular navigate the transitions and challenges of getting older.
'We have suggested the need for insitutions to help us plan for our choice years, to support social connection and meaningful contribution, to guide us through transitions and to reduce health inequalities as we age''
Their report proposes a number of practical interventions that the government could make - encouraging the establishment of what they call 'Ready Institutes' to support older people in this transitional period and which would create networks of support.
Similarly, Aging Without Children want to:
- Set up local groups where people ageing without children can meet together to get support
- Ensure that people ageing without children admitted to hospital or residential care have someone to speak up for them if they need it or are unable to do so themselves
- Work with other organisations, the NHS and local government to ensure that people ageing without children are not forgotten or ignored when services for older people are being discussed and
I wonder if we lived in a world where the elderly were cared for and looked after by the whole community, would there be such a fear of not having children in old age?