aging exuberantly

One of the most exciting aspects of the work I do is I get to work alongside some incredibly talented young professionals who are mentors, coaches, interventionists and clinicians. In doing so I feel invigorated knowing our behavioral health profession is in good hands.

Truth is aging is hard. One cannot stop the passing of time and how it affects your body. It is often challenging to keep yourself active and to keep a clear and positive mind. I have learned I can be young upstairs on my head, even if my joints creak a bit. That being said, to keep myself active I do take a swing at pickle-ball, walk Machu Pichu, spend time with grandchildren and collaborate daily with young, talented professionals such as Maks Ezrin, founder Youth Prevention Mentors (YPM), Adam and Jenny Finley, and others. I am always open to mentor and learn from new professionals.

The work I do with families invariably puts me in the gifted position to work with other young professionals. For example, at YPM I work with families while talented accountability mentors supervised by Maks Ezrin join up with the younger clientle and Dr. Rami Kaminski serves as the consulting psychiatrist. Here we have what the famed Bronowski wrote about, an embarrassment of riches, as we can put all the different perspectives in play.

Similarly, I work in tandem with teams when behavioral health care centers invite me to work with families when a loved one is in treatment. I also work in this fashion with other talented interventionists. Truth is I have always relished being part of a team that is trying to move a family to change. The synergy that comes from different personalities, perspectives and backgrounds is synergistic for healing to take place.

Perhaps because I spent over half of my life on college campuses, I am always am drawn to the enthusiasm of youth and their positive psychology. I am always willing to lend a hand and relish in their accomplishments and questions. I was heartened to learn that researchers and artists agree. Swedish author Margareta Magnusson, who wrote The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will Probably Die Before You, says the more you say yes to life, the more you experience richness.

In like manner Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at the Stanford Center on Longevity, has studied changes in emotion finds that older people find a mosaic of emotions while younger persons see things more as positive or negative while older persons are more able to experience joy with a tear in their eye.

Erik Erikson who was one of the most influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century wrote a seminal piece exploring psychosocial development. In Erikson’s schema of the “Eight Stages of Man”, he argued that in order to have Basic Trust in the World you must have folks walking around with Ego Integrity. Meaning folks younger and older must interact with one another and serve as mentors to each other in the respect that they who see the world as ok, full of curiosity and exploration. We must make this part and parcel of any treatment team.

So what exactly does this mean for our behavioral health community? Make sure that your staffs are intergenerational. Make sure when working with older adults you explore ways in which they can be part of a larger community not stuck or pigeonholed. Make sure that you take the time to engage in activities that challenge your sensibilities and that you know whoever you choose as a mentor they reap expansive benefits from working with you.

Remember in saying yes to life you are expanding our gifts.


How do you incorporate an intergenerational mix in your practice???