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Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Women and Aging

by Dr. Lisa Campbell

To start with a generality, psychologically-speaking, most women age well. Although we as a culture seem to do whatever we can to deny aging and hide our wrinkles, the reality is that women in midlife and beyond experience lower rates of depression and anxiety, as well as the levels of distress associated with them, than do younger women. At the same time, general life satisfaction tends to go up.

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a noted psychologist, believed that "women's lives get better instead of worse as they grow older because of their tremendous psychological strengths" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2010). For example, she wrote that women tend to use their relational strengths to "enter old age with a strong network of close relationships with people whom they trust and who want to reciprocate their empathy, patience, listening, and care." Women also are known to have emotional strengths that help them recognize and manage distress, and identity strengths that help them navigate ever-shifting roles and capabilities.

Strong connections, judged more for quality than quantity, tend to protect women from the losses and changes that generally accumulate with age. Women who acknowledge their increasing vulnerability, the sense that we are clearly not fully in control, are generally able to share their stories with others, leading to deep relationships that ease the stresses and burdens of aging.

Generalities are just that, however, and we at Willow know that for many women aging does not go as expected. Many post-menopausal women experience our most common psychological problems-depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties; others struggle with loneliness, uncertainty, fear, and/or grief (related to death, yes, but also to any other loss). Whatever the issues, it may be comforting to know that women's psychological strengths also make getting better truly possible-we can ask for help, and treatments are both available and effective.

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2010, January 12). Could aging be good for women? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-women/201001/could-aging-be-good-women