Therapy and aging too often has bought into an assumption, perhaps the most troubling is the assumption that one reaches a certain age beyond which development is no longer an option.
Hogwash. Therapy and aging can do better.
And I think this is at the heart of the trouble many people have with getting older (and let me remind you: we are all getting older). Development is a complicated concept, but for these purposes I’ll define it somewhat narrowly as the capacity to increase our ability to do new things.
Therapy and aging: New options for growth
Not only is it simply not true that our capacity for development shrinks with age, it is in fact critical for ongoing happiness that we prioritize development as we get older. That’s right. To the extent that we think about development at all, it is thought of as a fairly circumscribed process that takes place “naturally” from birth into (roughly) early adulthood. What’s implied (if not stated) is that at some point (generally that ambigous moment when we “become an adult”) we’re “developed.” Which is to say, we no longer need to (nor can we) engage in an intentional, thoughtful endeavor to develop.
But that’s precisely what I think is needed. Many of the so-called symptoms of aging, in my opinion, are symptoms of standing still developmentally speaking. For one thing, as we get older we often discover that things that worked very well for us no longer work. What’s needed? We have to develop new ways of doing things! Sure, if you’re out of practice, development will seem harder, and that can easily be mistaken as a function of age rather than a product of being out of practice.
How do we develop as we get older?
In many ways, we need to engage in many of the activities that children do–trying new things, putting ourselves in environments that place different sorts of demands on us and (wait for it)… playing.
That’s right: We need to (re)learn to play! Because playing is a fantastic way to grow. What might that look like? Well, one of the best ways is to find others who are interested in developing with play as well (sort of a play-date for grown ups). In fact, group therapy is a great way to start.