training and education is fundamentally important in order to
prepare practitioners to meet the needs of older people (Knight
et al., 2009). Yet, to date few psychologists actually choose to
specialize in working with older adults. This may be due to a
fear of aging among psychologists themselves.
Paradoxically, when Koder and Helmes (2008) investigated
this finding, they found that specialist psychologists who work
with older people may be at greater risk of developing negative
attributions about aging than generalist psychologists. Since
for most older people, aging is a positive experience and a
satisfactory life stage (Laidlaw et al., 2007), there seems to be
a mismatch between older adults’ reality and the attitudes
of specialists who work with them. These specialists may be
focused on the minority whose experience of aging is bound
up with distress and loss and become biased by that. In
summary, depression, anxiety and suicide are more common
in the professional experience of the clinician than in the
population at large (Knight, 2004). In the main, older people
report high levels of life satisfaction, are better at emotional
regulation (Urry & Gross, 2010) and report better emotional
well-being and emotional stability than younger adults
(Carstensen et al., 2011).
Thus, we need more research into cognitive and affective
aspects of aging to improve the psychological treatments aging
clients receive and at the same time educate our clinicians
about what to expect when they work with older people.
Clearly, the demographic changes already in motion have
profound implications for clinical training, education and
practice for us all. n
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About the authors
Ken Laidlaw, PhD,
at the University
of Edinburgh and
is senior lecturer in
for older people in
the National Health Service, Lothian. Nancy Pachana, PhD, is a
professor of clinical psychology and neuropsychology in the School
of Psychology at The University of Queensland.
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