Yes, age can be a blessing. But new phases of life always take some time to settle into. They raise big questions. And, if you’ve had behavioral health challenges in the past, they don’t necessarily disappear because you’re older and wiser.
I say this because it’s very clear this year has been particularly difficult for older people. I’ve seen it with my own eyes during my first meetings in months with donors who tell me they’re struggling with depression and feelings of uselessness. I saw it during a recent visit to Mary Ryder Home, where the ladies were so appreciative to have a new face with which to chat.
Our Provident leadership is currently refreshing our strategic plan, and one of the imperatives that has come out of our task force is recognizing we have to embrace the notion of senior behavioral health. We know that 15% of callers to our crisis lines are over age 55. We have seniors reaching out for counseling services and acting as primary caregivers to our Afterschool children. We know that while only 2% of students at the Brown School of Social Work are interested in gerontology, the number of people needing these services grows exponentially each year.
So I have two challenges for you this month. Reach out to the older folks in your life and let them know they matter to you. And think about how we can all do better professionally for older adults. With any luck, we’ll all be part of their club one day.
–Kevin Drollinger, President and Executive Director