Lilley Place Clinical Psychology provides specialist psychological treatment that covers the lifespan, from childhood to late life. Our team at Lilley Place includes a Clinical Geropsychologist, who can provide psychological support to older adults (geropsychology being the psychology of older persons; that is, typically those aged 65 years and older).

Some of the challenges experienced by older adults are unique to their developmental stage. Further, such challenges can impact negatively on older adults’ quality of life, and result in difficulties with anxiety and/or depression. It is important that psychological treatment for older adults is provided in a manner that takes account of all aspects relevant to the context and also to their generation. As such, while psychological treatments provided to older adults include standard evidence-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy, treatment is typically adapted and tailored to the needs of the older adult. Treatment may need to take into account age-related factors, such as limitations with memory and any reduction in cognitive abilities; thus, treatment of older adults is generally a slower process. Moreover, the therapeutic relationship is of the utmost importance, as many older adults are very uncertain about receiving psychological support, having been raised in an era that did not typically acknowledge difficulties with mood, anxiety, adjustment or coping.

Older adults can benefit from support during periods of adjustment, including serious or chronic health problems (for example, stroke, diabetes), preparing for or following retirement, and preparing for a move to a retirement village or residential care. Problems with health and periods of adjustment can trigger anxiety and depression; conversely, untreated anxiety and depression in older adults can have a significant impact on physical health and overall quality of life. Anxiety in older adults is, unfortunately, under-estimated, and research evidence suggests that many older adults struggle with both anxiety and depression, the anxiety having in fact preceded the depression. Late life difficulties often also include challenges in relationships with family members, and grief and loss work is also a frequent focus for the Clinical Geropsychologist.

The later years of a person’s life should provide them with the same quality of life, support, and peace of mind that we deem appropriate for all preceding stages of life. We encourage GPs to be mindful of the challenges being experienced by their older patients and to consider whether they may benefit from clinical geropsychology. If you are an older person experiencing any of the difficulties outlined above, or if you have a loved one of advanced years who you feel may benefit from therapy as described, please consider accessing our assistance. We would also like to encourage you to seek our support should you be experiencing difficulties in managing the distress that can be experienced in the caregiving role.

About the Author: Peta Lilley

Peta completed the Clinical Psychology PhD Program within the School of Psychology, The University of Queensland (UQ). The focus of her research was the development of emotional and behavioural difficulties (particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD) in children and adolescents following trauma. Peta has also completed a post-doctoral research fellow position in the School of Medicine at UQ.

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