2017 OASIG APA Convention Blog

by Maggie Syme, Ph.D., MPH


Maggie Syme, Ph.D., MPH

Going to Washington, D.C. for convention? It is right around the corner, and it is time to prepare for talks, posters, networking, and block out time to catch up with friends and colleagues. In addition, this year we celebrate 125 years of the American Psychological Association!

To help you wade through the many opportunities, the Older Adult SIG would like to share some of the dynamic aging programming available. We will not have a formal get-together at this convention, but we do want to encourage you all to support the members of the Older Adult SIG in their research and presentations. If you would like to learn more about the SIG, either Janna Imel, one of our fantastic student leaders, or myself would be happy to talk with you at our poster session (see below for our presentation schedule). Janna will also represent the OASIG at the Division 17 – SIG Open House which will be held on Thursday August 3rd, 2017 from 9am-10am in the Fellowship Hall.

As always, convention can be overwhelming to navigate with the many possibilities, so here is a small selection of programs separated out by a few interest areas. For a full listing of aging-related programming, please see the listing posted by APA’s Office on Aging: http://www.apa.org/convention/programming/pi-directorate/aging/.


Have a great convention!

For the CEU-minded conference goer, here are a few options:
Session Title: 4 Continuing Education Workshop #004: Assessment of Capacity in Older Adults
Session Type: Workshop
Date: Wed 08/02 8:00AM – 3:50PM
Division/Sponsor: CE-APA Continuing Education Committee
Building/Room: Renaissance Washington DC Hotel/Renaissance Ballroom West A Ballroom Level

Session Title: 2055 Continuing Education Workshop #125: Navigating Countertransference and Ethical Issues in Working With Suicidal Older Adults
Session Type: Workshop
Date: Fri 08/04 8:00AM – 11:50AM
Division/Sponsor: CE-APA Continuing Education Committee
Building/Room: Renaissance Washington DC Hotel/Meeting Rooms 10 and 11 Meeting Room Level

Session Title: 3288 Continuing Education Workshop #159: Best Clinical Practices for Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults
Session Type: Workshop
Date: Sat 08/05 1:00PM – 4:50PM
Division/Sponsor: CE-APA Continuing Education Committee
Building/Room: Renaissance Washington DC Hotel/Meeting Room 3 Meeting Room Level
Name Presentation Title
Leader: Sherry A. Beaudreau
Leader: Nehjla Mashal

For those interested in advocacy and diversity-related programming:
Session Title: 2126 Addressing Health Disparities Among Marginalized and Underserved Populations of Older Adults
Session Type: Symposium
Date: Fri 08/04 10:00AM – 10:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 44-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues; Co-List: 7, 9, 20, 22, 24, 31, 35, 39
Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 149A Street Level
Chair: Weston V. Donaldson
Participant/1stAuthor: Mark Brennan-Ing
Ageism and Older Adults With HIV: A Source of Health Disparities?
Participant/1stAuthor: Camille DeBell
Health Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Older Adults in Integrated Care
Participant/1stAuthor: Allen Ivey
Disparities in Treatment for People of Color and Low-Income People in Cardio Rehab
Participant/1stAuthor: Sue C. Jacobs
Health Disparities Among LGBT Older Adults
Discussant: William Gibson

Session Title: 4023 Advocating for Older Adults—Translating Effectively From Science to Policy
Session Type: Symposium
Date: Sun 08/06 8:00AM – 9:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 20-Adult Development and Aging; Co-List: 27, 29, 31, 34, 35, APAGS
Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 102A Street Level

For students, trainees and early career psychologists, take these opportunities to network with potential mentors and aging-related internships:
Session Title: 1171 How to Master the Internship Application Process
Session Type: Discussion
Date: Thu 08/03 11:00AM – 12:50PM
Division/Sponsor: 12-Clinical; Co-Sponsor: 43-Couple and Family Psychology; Co-List: 16, 17, 22, 31, 41, 50, 54, APAGS, Psi Chi
Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 207B Level Two

Session Title: 2044 Internship Workshop
Session Type: Symposium
Date: Fri 08/04 8:00AM – 9:50AM
Division/Sponsor: GS-APAGS; Co-List: 12, 15, 16, 17, 28, 33, 41, 51, 53, 54, Psi Chi

Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 202B Level Two Session Title: 2049 The Early Career Compass—A Professional Mentorship Workshop
Session Type: Discussion
Date: Fri 08/04 8:00AM – 9:50AM
Division/Sponsor: CPG-Central Programming Group; Co-List: 40, 19, 22, 41, APA Committee on Early Career Psychologists
Building/Room: Convention Center/East Salon C Street Level
Chair: Cady K. Block
Participant/1stAuthor: Ann Landes
Work Group #1–Career and Salary
Work Group #2–Supervision and Teaching
Work Group #3–Networking and Leadership
Work Group #4–Licensure, Credentialing and Board Certification

Session Title: 2108 Tackling Common Interview Questions—Externship, Internship, Fellowship and First-Job Interviews
Session Type: Discussion
Date: Fri 08/04 10:00AM – 10:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 12-Clinical; Co-List: 7, 15, 16, 31, 33, 43, 53, APA Committee on Early Career Psychologists, APAGS, Psi Chi
Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 103B Street Level

Session Title: 3097 Procuring Federal Funding for Your Research—An Interactive Mentoring Workshop
Session Type: Skill-Building Session
Date: Sat 08/05 9:00AM – 10:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 40-Clinical Neuropsychology; Co-Sponsor: GS-APAGS; Co-List: 5, 7, 12, 14, 15, 16, 20, 27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 41, 47, 51, 54, APA Committee on Early Career Psychologists
Building/Room: Convention Center/Room 156 Street Level

Session Title: 3315 Meet and Greet With Internship Training Directors
Session Type: Social Hour
Date: Sat 08/05 2:00PM – 2:50PM
Division/Sponsor: GS-APAGS; Co-List: 12, 15, 16, 28, 31, 33, 37, 40, 41, 51, Psi Chi
Building/Room: Convention Center/East Salon C Street Level

Last but not least, our Division 17 and Older Adult SIG members are presenting, please support their efforts!
Session Title: 1187 Counseling Interventions and Psychotherapy
Session Type: Poster
Session Date: Thu 08/03 12:00PM – 12:50PM
Division/Sponsor: 17-Counseling
Building/Room: Convention Center/Halls D and E Level Two
Participant/1stAuthor: Janna L. Imel
Co-Author: Natalie D. Dautovich Positivity Ratio: Predicting Sleep Across the Adult Lifespan [Poster# (E-22)]

Participant/1stAuthor: Linh P. Luu
Co-Author: Arpana Inman, Stephanie Codos, Shannon L. Patterson, Asmita Pendse Understanding Supervisor Countertransference From the Critical Events-Based Model [Poster# (E-13)]

Session Title: 2182 Developmental and Multicultural Considerations in Couple and Family Psychology
Session Type: Poster Session
Date: Fri 08/04 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 43-Couple and Family Psychology
Building/Room: Convention Center/Halls D and E Level Two
Participant/1stAuthor: Michiko Iwasaki
Co-Author: Jason M. Prenoveau
Predictors of Marital Satisfaction Among Japanese Women Married to Non-Japanese Men [Poster# (G-15)]

Session Title: 2253 Early Career Research and Innovation
Session Type: Poster Session
Date: Fri 08/04 2:00PM – 2:50PM
Division/Sponsor: EC-APA Committee on Early Career Psychologists
Building/Room: Convention Center/Halls D and E Level Two
Participant/1stAuthor: Maggie L. Syme
Co-Author: Ryan Krajicek
Determining Older Adults’ Opinions Regarding Sexual Expression in Long-Term Care [Poster# (B-3)]

Session Title: 3271 II
Session Type: Poster Session
Date: Sat 08/05 1:00PM – 1:50PM
Division/Sponsor: 38-Health Psychology
Building/Room: Convention Center/Halls D and E Level Two
Participant/1stAuthor: Shannon L. Patterson
Co-Author: Grace I.L. Caskie, Hannah M. Bashian
Experiences With Interprofessional Health Care Teams Among Psychology Doctoral Students [Poster# (D-22)]

Session Title: 3212 II
Session Type: Poster Session
Date: Sat 08/05 12:00PM – 12:50PM
Division/Sponsor: 20-Adult Development and Aging
Building/Room: Convention Center/Halls D and E Level Two
Participant/1stAuthor: Michiko Iwasaki
Co-Author: Anastasia E. Canell, Jordan Orbe
Health and Well-Being Among 85+ Individuals: Positive Aging Perspectives [Poster# (E-13)]

Join OASIG Image


Aging Fearlessly: A Positive Spin on Older Age

Janna Imel, M.S.

By Janna Imel, M.S.

In thinking about successful aging, including anecdotal stories from older adults in my family and my research on emotional well-being in older adults, I realized I may be the only 24-year-old who is excited to enter older adulthood decades from now, as it is associated with perks younger adults do not report. The term “older adult” encompasses a vast array of people with unique experiences, personalities, and stories all over the age of 65. More often than not, society associates older adulthood with decline. It is true that older age can bring forth declines in health, the loss of close friends and family, and difficult transitions. However, one consistent research finding is that older age is linked to increased well-being and more positive affect in comparison to individuals in younger and middle adulthood (Gooding, Hurst, Johnson, & Tarrier, 2012). This blog is intended to counteract the deficit model of aging and focus on some positive aspects of growing older.

I have noticed that when speaking with my peers and younger adults about my decision to pursue a doctorate in geropsychology, I often get the responses, “Wow, that must be so sad” and “I don’t ever want to get old.” Media is notorious for portraying older adults as frail, helpless, and unable to be independent. Our society portrays being young and youthful as the best times of one’s life and old age as something bad. However, in my work with older adults, I find that they continue to dream and strive to enjoy life like the rest of us across the lifespan and oftentimes, do it with more success than younger counterparts. Below I outline two of the “successes” research has shown to come with older age:

Social Relationships:

As one becomes older, an important shift in goals begins to occur, as defined by the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (Carstensen, 1999). Younger adults view time as vast and tend to prioritize future-oriented goals set to increase knowledge (e.g., choosing to move for a career opportunity over maintaining a friendship). Older adults differ in their view of time. Each passing year increases the sense of mortality and older adults begin to see time as more limited. A limited-time perspective ushers in more emotional goals like fostering close relationships and striving to be more connected to others. As such, older adults tend to partake in social contact that is emotionally rewarding rather than the emotionally meaningless chatter younger adults may sit through to open career opportunities. Pursuing meaningful relationships and having social connection can help individuals push through difficult times and find meaning in a time of transition to a different stage of life. So, rather than procrastinating writing your next manuscript by going on Facebook, give your grandma a call instead, because connecting with others and having meaningful relationships is likely important to her.

Emotional Well-being:

When compared to others across the lifespan, older adults self-report better emotional well-being and having more control over their emotions (Carstensen et al., 2011; Hay & Diehl, 2011; Lawton, Kleban, Rajagopal, & Dean, 1992). Additionally, they are able to look at the positives of past events no matter the outcome at the time the event occurred (Carstensen et al., 2011). For example, a failed romantic relationship at 27-years-old may cause frustration, sadness, and disappointment at the time. Fifty years later, this event is less likely to hold the same weight and the individual is likely to find positives in the event. This phenomenon is called the “positivity effect” as individuals label earlier, difficult life events as less negative in older age versus how they felt in real-time (Carstensen et al., 2011). Specifically, research shows that older adults tend to have better emotional regulation and can move past events in old age that would have been upsetting for them in their youth. In contrast, younger adults tend to display the opposite, experiencing more negative emotions and less control of these emotions (Gross et al., 1997). In thinking of the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, the emotional regulation in older adulthood may occur given that the individual is emphasizing more emotion-related goals (e.g., If you feel you only have 5-10 years left to live, will an argument really stop you from talking to your loved one for weeks?).

When discussing aging, I believe it is imperative that we begin to change the aging discussion from a focus on deficits and consider the benefits of older age, two of which have been outlined in this post. In researching the topic of aging, I find myself examining my own life and wondering what lessons can be learned from old age. I have had the blessing of being close to both sets of my grandparents and other older adults in my life that I love. I am inspired by their ability to persevere through tough times and be resilient in the face of hardships, both emotional and physical. I also respect their desire to cultivate meaningful relationships, which drives me to try to embody this in my own relationships. As a graduate student, I find that social time is the first thing to be cut from my schedule when I’m busy. However, when I slow down for a moment, become mindful of those around me, and deliberately choose to spend time with those I cherish, the stress becomes more manageable. Maybe it takes sixty-five years or more for us to learn to appreciate people in our lives and learn to manage our emotions? Maybe it is older adulthood that forces individuals to pause and reflect, leading to better emotional well-being and positive affect? Or maybe these are things we can implement at any point in the lifespan and successful aging starts from childhood? Regardless, imagine what we can do if we learn to slow down and appreciate the beauty of life before old age. Instead of living busy from sunrise to sunset, maybe we should make time to reflect with the older adults we hold dear in our own lives and take a moment to truly listen.


1)    Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165-181.

2)    Carstensen, L. L., Turan, B., Scheibe, S., Ram, N., Ersner-Hershfield, H., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., … & Nesselroade, J. R. (2011). Emotional experience improves with age: Evidence based on over 10 years of experience sampling. Psychology and Aging, 26, 21-33.

3)    Gooding, P. A., Hurst, A., Johnson, J., & Tarrier, N. (2012). Psychological resilience in young and older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27, 262-270.

4)    Gross, J. J., Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Tsai, J., Götestam Skorpen, C., & Hsu, A. Y. (1997). Emotion and aging: Experience, expression, and control. Psychology and Aging, 12, 590-599.

5)    Hay, E. L., & Diehl, M. (2011). Emotion complexity and emotion regulation across adulthood. European Journal of Ageing, 8, 157-168.

6)    Lawton, M. P., Kleban, M. H., Rajagopal, D., & Dean, J. (1992). Dimensions of affective experience in three age groups. Psychology and Aging, 7, 171-184.

About the Author

Janna is a proud Kentuckian from the Eastern Kentucky region. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Louisville in 2014. She is currently a third year student in the Counseling Psychology program at VCU. Her research interests include clinical geropsychology, behavioral sleep medicine in the elderly, primary care health and community engagement. Janna’s master’s thesis examined the the role of the positivity ratio in predicting subjective and objective sleep outcomes across the adult lifespan. Janna currently serves as a student representative for the OASIG.

Successful Aging

Donald R. Nicholas, Ph.D., ABPP

by Donald R. Nicholas, PhD, ABPP

I am pleased to be asked to contribute to this ongoing blog discussion about successful aging, particularly since this opportunity came with a symposium presentation with two successful graduates of our PhD program in Counseling Psychology at Ball State University and leaders of the Older Adult SIG—Drs. Renee’ Zucchero and Michiko Iwasaki.  The three of us presented our thoughts on successful aging on March 31, 2017 at the 2017 Great Lakes Regional Counseling Psychology Conference and this blog is an extension of our symposium.  This was a great time to see Renee’ and Michiko, back on Ball State’s campus.
I was asked to address an identified dilemma in the literature that might best be explained via the question, “why, when asked to define successful aging, do researchers and older adults generally give different definitions”? In other words, is successful aging best defined as it has been defined by researchers via objective measures with good psychometric properties, or is it better defined by the subjective, phenomenological experiences of older adults living successful lives during the latter years of life?  I will offer both my professional and personal reflections on this question.

Professional Perspective
I have seen this same issue addressed with many other psychological constructs.  Which is most valuable, the objective definition of the researcher that comes from well-developed, psychometrically-sound, valid and reliable questionnaires, or the subjective, phenomenological, perspective of the aging older adult?  The objective scientist’s approach is most likely to come from self-report questionnaires administered to a large-number of older adults in the form of quantitative research where group means and standard deviations will be presented. The subjective, phenomenological approach is more likely to come from qualitative research where smaller numbers of older adult will provide more detailed, rich, deeper dives into their personal experiences of successful aging.  This results in another good example of the often-explained differences between quantitative and qualitative research where the former generates “small amounts of information from large numbers of people” and the latter generates “large amounts of information from smaller numbers of people.”  Both are valuable and hopefully inform one another. All of this is a current day example of an age-old issue in psychological research between the nomothetic and the idiographic.  Good to know that some basic questions remain, even though the topic/content may differ!  I think that these two perspectives are not likely to ever converge around a similar definition.  Rather, I think they are valued because they are providing different perspectives or lenses from which to address an important question, “what is successful aging?”
With that brief opinion from my professional perspective let me move on to a more personal perspective and provide my own subjective, phenomenological view of successful aging.

Personal Perspective
First, since there is no agreed upon operational definition of successful aging, I can’t claim to be doing so, but I was flattered to be asked, under the assumption of those asking that I might have something valuable to offer.  So, for now let’s pretend I am aging successfully.  At 65, I am considered to be “young-old.”  I continue to work full-time in my academic job at Ball State and I continue to provide clinical services in my specialty of psycho-oncology, so I am writing from the perspective of a 65-year-old, White, married, male, father of three adult children and one grandson, who tries to be aware of his privileged status in our culture.  I work at least five days per week, but find myself thinking frequently about the upcoming transition toward retirement.
At present, I spend time: (a) looking back upon my professional career and evaluating its impact, while also (b) looking forward to a time when my days will not be structured around it.  When I look back, I sometimes am reminded of a time in my career (1987 through 1993) when I was affiliated with the Fisher Institute for Wellness here on campus.  Three of us were tasked with starting the Institute and I, as the coordinator of research, took on the primary task of trying to define the construct of “wellness”.  We reviewed the literature and found there was little agreement on a formal definition, but lots of models.  Within these models, we saw differing numbers of components, but most agreed that wellness consisted of a variety of components or life dimensions.  Probably, the most popular at the time was from the National Wellness Institute and its proposed six dimensions of wellness—emotional, occupational, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and social.  I think such a model is valuable because it provides a guide for considering which life dimensions, at which points in life, seem most important. Additionally, one can first evaluate where one is on one or more dimensions and then how to structure one’s lifestyle and personal goals toward some form of emphasis and growth in one or more dimensions.  I think an adult lifespan developmental order could be proposed to these that would, of course, differ by person but many could see a sequential order that might include a focus on social/physical/emotional in early adulthood, soon followed by a necessary focus on intellectual/occupational as one entered the permanent work force, and maybe a bit later comes a focus on spiritual.  Certainly, there will be many variations on this order and the value may be in considering the meaning and purpose in why one or more dimensions seems most salient at a point in time.

My Personal Life Dimensions
I have been fortunate to have good physical health and to be capable of continuing to do most physical activities that I want (sans long distance running which ended in my late 40s after a couple of arthroscopic knee surgeries). I was athletic in my youth and so my physical life dimension has always been something I am proud of and probably have taken too much for granted.  Thus, although so far so good, I realize it’s not a given and I will likely have to face some physical limitations in the future, but for now I am good!  For instance, just recently my son and I hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail together where we covered 22 miles in three days. This proved to be a very meaningful time together as he has been living in Brazil, with plans to return soon.  We “seized the days” while we could!  Based upon a current strong foundation of good physical health, I consider the other dimensions.

I was fortunate to have good parents and to have been raised in an emotionally healthy strong, Irish Catholic family.  As the fifth child of six, I had lots of older siblings from which to watch emotional development and regulation and the smarts to watch closely who to emulate.  This tendency to closely observe, watch, sit back, and consider consequences was the foundation of my interest in and formative in my development of a temperament to become a psychologist.  It has served me well, and I hope I regularly live with awareness and gratitude for this.  It also left me with a curiosity about how emotions work and as I have grown, via the study of psychology, I have come to learn how to recognize/identify, label, and accurately express my own emotions.  As an older adult male, I feel free to express most any emotions, but am more inclined, the older I get, to focus on affirmation, gratitude, and acceptance.  As my life extends it has also expanded to include a much broader awareness of goodness in others, similarities despite differences, and compassion for others.  I worry much less about how others view me, and this is freeing.
My wife and I have been married for 43 years, so my social life dimension has, for a long time, been centered around our relationship, while being enriched by friends, colleagues and extended family.  In earlier years while raising children, our social life was intertwined with their activities—dance, sports, school, church—that kept us very busy.  I now look back on those times and see the richness, the precious moments I cherish.  As I age, I often think now about how I will probably need to be more intentional and proactive in forming new relationships in the future.  This will be challenging for me, but doable.  This social life dimension is likely to become of increasing importance in retirement, with more time I hope to be more regularly involved with friends and family

As an academic, these two dimensions co-occur.  My occupation has been an incredibly important and enriching part of my life. I will be forever grateful to have worked at one institution, with wonderful colleagues, for many years, but my occupation is winding down.  I think about and feel the winding down almost daily.  Some days I feel sad; other days I feel glad; and other days, I feel very impatient—I can’t wait!  Maybe I am wrong to be in a hurry, but just in recent months, I think I have come to the realization that I will transition into retirement just fine!  When I think about the future years, I mostly think about what I want to do!  Rarely do I think about what I will miss, although I am sure I will miss a lot—particularly a lot of people I have grown to be close to, to love, to care about.  I know I will miss them, but I also look forward to having more leisure time—time devoted to what, for me, at this point in my life is my most salient life dimension—the Spiritual.

I am both spiritual and religious.  I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, in the context of a family for whom, Catholicism was so woven into our life, most memories involve some connection to the church—Baptism, First Communion, Altar Boy, Confirmation, and so on.  I completed 12 years of school in Catholic schools and consider myself today heavily influenced by my Roman Catholic past.  However, my wife and I raised our children in a United Methodist tradition and we continue to be very active in our local United Methodist church.  Throughout these external signs of my Christian faith, my internal focus has been on contemplative prayer.  In my mid 40’s, during a time I was reflecting on these wellness dimensions, I made a conscious decision that my spiritual life was lacking and began to intentionally focus on its growth.  This came mostly in the form of a practice of contemplative prayer via the regular practice of Centering Prayer.  I have continued to do so for the past 25 years and as I look to my future, I anticipate devoting more time toward this spiritual growth which comes with increased awareness, consciousness and most interestingly for me, a renewed appreciation and understanding of an orthodox view of Christianity.  As I have fantasized about what retirement may be, I hope I can find time to regularly pray, live in the mystery of my faith, while being inspired to do good for others.  In what form that takes, I really don’t know right now, but I have faith that I will know when I need to.

In re-reading the above, I am not sure I focused on “successful aging”, but I do feel like I have provided an honest, personal perspective on aging, from the perspective of one who is looking closely a retirement within the next 2-3 years.  With that in mind, I hope that my thoughts have been interesting, coherent, and may provide some perspective on successful aging, at a developmental time when my career is winding down, and retirement is looming in the near future.

About the Author

Donald R. Nicholas, Ph.D., ABPP, is Professor of Counseling Psychology at Ball State where he serves as the director of the APA-Approved doctoral program. He is Board Certified (ABPP) in clinical health Psychology and is a Fellow of the APA’s Society of Counseling Psychology and the Academy of Clinical Health Psychology. His specialty and primary clinical work has been psycho-oncology.  Since 1994 he has provided, and supervised, psychological services to cancer patients and their families.  This work has been provided to predominantly older adults facing serious health problems, facing multiple losses and often struggling with issues of meaning and purpose.

Success Factors and the Aging Process: Reflections about My Life Experiences: Part 2

hellkamp-headshot-2-17David T. Hellkamp, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Xavier University

In Part 1 of this blog, Dave shared his ideas about identity, financial, and social aspects of contented aging. In Part 2, he discusses physical health, hobbies, intellectual curiosity, and spirituality, and makes his concluding remarks.

Physical Health
Reaching a later stage in life seems synonyms with health concerns. Aches and pains began primarily in my middle sixties and became more of an issue in my seventies. I also experienced minor surgeries, along with the diagnosis and treatments for my cancer.  I am becoming more aware that we start outliving some of our bodies’ organs and organ systems during this stage. The good news is advancements in dentistry and medicine can aid us greatly in dealing with a number of these issues, but not all.

So, thankfully, I have been working for years to prepare my body for the aging process. Such preparation was not by chance. A mentor, 20 years my senior, began preaching to me when I was in my early 40’s to keep my body active as long as I could. From childhood, I was interested in sports. As a young adult, as I previously alluded to, I played pick-up basketball games. That activity continued into my 50’s. I always gave priority to physical activity. In my 60’s, it became more difficult, but I worked a lot in the yard and around the house. Over the past three years, I have given top priority to systematically working out at the gym three times a week. These workouts, which include walking a mile and 14 different weight exercises, have likely made a difference in my endurance, strength, energy level, and physical appearance. Make no mistake, these activities are real work and require great effort at times. As a matter of fact, I occasionally kid with others that the closest I get to “work” these days is “working-out” in the gym! I’m sure being reasonably smart about diet, not smoking, drinking in moderation, and trying to get adequate sleep add to my feelings of reasonable health. Being retired with time to do what I want and maintaining reasonable health is a great combination in this stage of life.

A true hobby is a form of love. The object of this type of love is an activity rather than a person. Common examples for me are reading, games, building things, traveling, watching movies, etc. An important component of a meaningful hobby is the experience of passion you have for that hobby. If no passion exists for the activity, it is not a hobby, just an activity for passing time. Boredom usually sets in fast. For me, volunteering and/or “giving back” are also very important hobbies. I’ve volunteered on not-for-profit Boards, as an example. I have also tried to give back financially to charitable groups that I know firsthand do great work for students and the underserved. Such activities give extra meaning to my life. Time and finances are ways of giving back.

Another hobby is investing, although, technically, the IRS considers it more of a job. Subjectively, I don’t. Actually, I spend little concerted time doing it, but do enjoy reading and learning all I can about those limited investing areas I now know something about. When teaching neophyte doctoral students about clinical or consulting practices, I would strongly advise them to also learn firsthand about their finances and to learn to maintain control over their finances, including investing. I believe some methods of successful investing utilize similar skills that good clinicians employ when they have learned how to diagnose, do interventions, and apply analytics (statistics). However, that is another story for a different forum.

I will not risk boring you with a discussion of my other hobbies. What is perhaps most important for you, the reader, is for you to plan by identifying where your own passions for activities are. After all, if you are currently a student or professional, I assume you have given (or are giving) thought as to what courses and work activities excite you! In that way, you are in the planning or implementing stage of your life work. When you retire from work, you will spend your newly acquired free time doing something. Find your passions and go for it!

Intellectual Curiosity
As an academic in my work life, I was always intellectually curious about many things. I have discovered since I retired, that the subject matter of my intellectual curiosities, in terms of range and depth, has expanded. In retrospect, it was likely that keeping up with the readings related to my coursework, clinical and consulting practices, and related research interests constrained my time to devote to other topics of interest. Now, I have free time to devote in much more depth, to those topics.

In contrast, by expanding my social relationships to new friends and acquaintances, I have become aware there are many older people who don’t appear to have much intellectual curiosity, at least in a similar way. Or, maybe they have just not given it a high priority?  Some are dogmatic in their thinking and seem to prefer a “world view” that is consistent mostly with their past experiences. To be confronted with alternative explanations for their opinions is very threatening, even if empirical evidence to support the opposing opinions is presented. In other words, accepting ambiguity and/or change is or has become very difficult for them to integrate into their own lives. On social and political levels, it plays out in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, and environmental issues, among others. In pointing out these dynamics, my intention is not to open a can of arguments to support or reject any position. Rather, I would suggest that, for me, it is important to maintain an intellectual curiosity in old age, however that plays out. I am always curious about and intrigued by what visionaries say about trends influencing our present and futures. In other words, I am curious about how things appear to be at present and how things might become for our society and globally in the future.

Spirituality includes dealing directly with your values and interests. Values and interests help define your character, choices in life work, relationships, and hobbies. Values and interests also help set the foundation for personal integrity, integration, and direction in one’s life via goal setting. At times, I have found it valuable to reflect on how my life is going. On occasion, I made major and/or minor shifts in areas of my life choices, hopefully, in the best interests of all involved. You can only do the best you can do. Such transitions can be very easy, or risky and stressful, but may need to be made. In the latter instance, they might involve changing vocations to changing marital status. For me, the experience of divorce was a very painful and stressful time of life. I would not recommend anyone marry and have a family until each partner has developed a personal identity beyond the relationship itself, and to have developed a vocational identity. Marriage at a young age is generally highly related to divorce. It certainly was for me.

On a deeper level, spirituality can involve one’s relationship to God or a Higher Being. For maybe the first 60 years of life, I felt comfortable as a “Believer.”  My belief in a Higher Being started to change when I learned about evidence supporting the Big Bang Theory and Theory of Singularity. Intense reading and rereading of Stephen Hawking’s work, A Brief History of Time, along with other work by Hawking and others, induced a profound shakeup of my Belief. Although I was aware of many philosophical, psychological, and theological arguments in support of or against being a Believer, the most powerful evidence for me until that time was the immense feelings of awe I experienced when I looked up at the sky on a clear, dark evening. Seeing the stars and reflecting on the vastness of the universe, I concluded there must be a Higher Being to account for the existence of everything. I will not go further with this line of discussion other than to use it as an example of an issue I am currently trying to resolve for myself; this is a late life spiritual issue for me. Frankly, it took me by surprise. Some family and friends may also be surprised to learn about my spiritual struggles. I have a plan for how to approach this issue. All I can say is: “to be continued…”

Concluding Comments
My original purpose in agreeing to reflect on and share aspects of my life was to help shed some light on how “success” and feelings of “contentment” might evolve and be maintained in the aging process. However, in writing about my experiences, I was forced to organize aspects of my life in a meaningful way to share my life experiences. Perhaps, noticeable to many readers, is the lack of focus on my work achievements and “successes.” For me, work successes were very important during my work life. But, now that I am retired, work successes are very much relegated to the background. I now experience the feelings of contentment about life as much more important and they take precedent over any such work successes.

While writing this blog, I happened to mention to some of my grown children what I had undertaken. I was somewhat surprised that they seemed very interested to read the finished entry. When my daughter “proofed” the draft, she seemed to like it. Maybe other family members will like it, also. If so, maybe these writings will serve as a more lasting memory to my family. Perhaps my comments might serve a more articulate, personal postmortem memory of me for my family, in contrast to periodically traveling to stare at an impersonal tombstone with my name, dates of birth and death, and a brief epitaph. Might a project serve others in a similar way? Time will tell.

In April, Don N. Nicholas, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling Psychology, Social Psychology, and Counseling, and Director of Doctoral Training at Ball State University will share his ideas about successful aging.

Success Factors and the Aging Process: Reflections about My Life Experiences: Part 1

hellkamp-headshot-2-17By David T. Hellkamp, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Xavier University

I am 76 years old at the time of this writing. Over the past 57 years, I have functioned as a father of seven (including one step-child), grandfather of eighteen, great grandfather of four. I have also been a husband for two women, the first for about 20 years, then there was an 8 year single parent hiatus, and I have spent over 27 years with my current spouse. Following earning a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, my work experience included being an educator, clinician, consultant, administrator, researcher, and entrepreneur, until five years ago, when I retired.  I have been asked to write about my life as a senior (“old guy”) since the person, a former colleague, doing the requesting apparently sees me as aging successfully! That judgement I experienced as a “feel good” moment.

My hope is that some of my memories and ideas might add to the case study literature on aging. I will be brief, as many of my selected experiences could be elaborated at greater length. I have organized my thoughts into the areas of Identity, Finances, Social, Physical Health, Hobbies, Intellectual Curiosity, Spirituality, and Concluding Remarks.
I strongly believe transitioning into the last stage of life is no different than transitioning into any previous stage of life, from the standpoint that one must reasonably prepare for it in order to be more likely to experience success. I believe the word “success” does not describe best my current experience, but rather, I would substitute the word “contentment.” Hopefully, as you read more, the distinction will become more apparent. Maybe each word reflects a different side of the same experience.

I can’t emphasize how fortunate and blessed I feel to have had the opportunity to live a full life (not that I’m expecting to check out in the near future!). For me, experiencing a full life adds greatly to accepting the onset of inevitable illness and death. I am experiencing this final chapter in life in a more wholesome way than I anticipated when I was much younger.  I, like some of my peers, am generally enjoying this stage of life, but in different ways than previous stages. Advances in technology, especially communication, allow us to stay connected to persons and events, thereby, contributing immensely to the enjoyment. Finally, I do not assume my experiences of aging would apply to any or all readers. I would recommend the reader become aware of other discussions and writings, especially what the latest geriatric research tells us.

Whatever anchor points a person may use to identify the onset of late life for themselves (age, retirement, the mirror, etc.), I believe one must be reasonably secure about one’s own personal identity! That, for me, was very different from feeling secure about my professional identity. The concept of retirement is relevant here as it represents the cultural standard for psychologically divorcing yourself from work. For me, it involved not just stopping or cutting back my work (professional) activities, but knowing myself well enough to realize I was “more” than my work identity. To do that successfully involved both planning for the change and being comfortable with the change in my identity. I no longer experience myself primarily as a psychologist (i.e., teacher, researcher, consultant, administrator, or “doctor”). Most importantly, that shift in identity was significant, and very noticeable to me.

Starting some years before I retired, I spent many hours talking to colleagues who were either close to retirement or already retired, as well as doing a review of the latest literature on retirement, hoping to learn something about what to expect and how to prepare. There was no big surprise when I actually retired and, just as important, I felt “psychologically ready.” I’ve noticed some of my peers have struggled with this change in identity by holding on to, or trying to hold on to, their previous work identity. It was as though they did not plan solid goals for where they were heading, but rather, seemed to only plan for leaving their work lives. In other words, they knew what they were leaving, but were not clear about where they were heading. Not too long after retiring, they reported being bored, sometimes depressed.

Transitioning into old age also involved “losses” for me in a number of different areas of life. I will attend to some of the losses below. As much as possible, you need to be prepared for such losses. Continually learning about yourself, including your effective coping skills, has been extremely helpful as a method for preparing for the journey.

Needless to say, one major contributor to my feelings of contentment was to have acquired a reasonable financial foundation by the time I retired from my work life. I owe much gratitude to a colleague (Dean of the Business College) in my early career at Xavier for giving me the best financial advice for preparing adequately for retirement. I was in my late 20’s at the time. During shower and dressing times following daily pickup basketball games at noon among faculty, staff, and former college players, we had “life” talks. He was in his late 50’s at the time. One such discussion included advice to make sure I maximized contributions to my retirement account at the University, giving it a high priority, even though I was young and retirement savings was not high on my list for how to spend my money. He also strongly recommended the monies be kept primarily invested in stocks, not bonds or money market funds. Additionally, he advised me to always try to have more than one source of income. As a clinical and consulting psychologist, the advice helped encourage me to move into a part-time practice. Later, it included learning how to directly invest monies into stocks and real estate. By following such advice, he stated I would put myself in the best position to develop later financial wealth. He was right. It worked for me. By accumulating reasonable wealth, I was in a position to choose when and how I wanted to retire, not whether I would be able to retire.

The transition from work to retirement also required dealing with many other financial issues. Learning about social security payouts, life insurance policy specifics, how best to house your retirement accounts, and, very importantly, making sure you have a will and/or appropriate trust in place, while realizing they usually require tweaking every so often, are all so important. Becoming familiar with specific retirement benefits from your employer also should be addressed. Health insurance plans, including Medicare plans are very critical. Overall, adequate finances (and financial planning) are one major source of contentment feelings, but not the most important contributor.

During the later stage in life, I believe continued relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, and others are extremely important to feelings of “success” or contentment. Family is most important. As indicated above, my family consists of many loving people. I sometimes joke to others that my family is so large that it is no longer just a “family,” but a “community!” Despite the size and numerous complexities, it takes much effort to deal with the mechanics of maintaining meaningful relationships with all. Sometimes it is overwhelming. Other times, it is extremely fulfilling. Watching and helping family members develop independence and growth in their own lives is most fulfilling and a source of enormous pride.

As a side note, I believe it would be very challenging today to have a large family if your personal goal is to maximize each child’s personal growth. Suffice it to say, a very different culture with regard to family existed 60 years ago. It was, and still is, not easy raising a family.

Many stressors will occur, sometimes testing you to the core. My second oldest son was diagnosed with ALS in my first year of retirement. The disease progressed rapidly to imprison him in his body prior to his passing away the following year. About the same time, my oldest daughter developed breast cancer requiring much adjustment, as well as serious medical and family attention. Shortly thereafter, I was also diagnosed with cancer. Overall, it was a horrific period of several years. On the positive side, I am proud and relieved to say both my daughter and I are cancer survivors!  I point out these events as examples of life experiences which were extremely stressful and reflected unanticipated loss, but, paradoxically, did not destroy my underlying feelings of life contentment. To be sure, I experienced significant worries, fears, concerns, and “holy” anger, among other feelings, but a soothing feeling of contentment remained. I do remember thinking during those times I had no direct control over those and other enormous stressors. Maybe that was a coping mechanism that worked for me. Regardless, I now count every day as a blessing! Support from family and friends was (and is) extremely important for all of life’s surprises!

Support from and for your spouse is also very important during retirement. We did not experience any major adjustment problems as we experienced more time together. It is interesting that prior to and during retirement, many people would freely talk about couples having major adjustment problems during this time. Maybe we were just prepared because we have many similar interests and have freely given each other individual space. In other words, we both felt comfortable with our separate identities.

Maintaining selected friendships and developing new ones during this stage of life is very important to me as well. You must take an active role in such endeavors. For me, I have developed or joined breakfast groups (a ROMEO CLUB: Retired Old Men Eating Out), discussion groups, book clubs, a neighborhood club, and maintained many friends who, like my wife and I, are avid supporters of Xavier University sports, especially basketball. Many new friends and acquaintances are among those groups.

Look for Part 2 of this blog which will be posted in March. Dave will discuss physical health, hobbies, intellectual curiosity, and spirituality, and make his concluding remarks.

Opportunity to work with older adults in Counseling Psychology: An issue of social Justice

patterson-award-photo-fall-2016By Shannon Patterson, M.Ed.

My professional interest and passion for working with older adults happened by accident.  At the end of my sophomore of high school, I began hunting for a part-time job in an attempt to start saving money for college. There were only a few options available in small town Wisconsin. I could clean the local veterinarian clinic, work as a cashier at one of the town’s two grocery stores, or I could wait tables. It took a summer’s worth of witnessing multiple gory animal surgeries, while cleaning cages, to realize that my dream of becoming a veterinarian was not going to become a reality.

I went back to the drawing board, and began a second job hunt. I had heard about the possibility of becoming a dietary aide for an organization in my town. At this time, nutrition was a big interest of mine, so I wandered into a building that I thought was the organization of interest to pick up my job application. As it turned out, the building was an assisted living community that happened to be looking to hire another resident assistant. I was warmly greeted by the nurse manager who later acted as my mentor for the remainder of my high school and college. Six years after I began working at this assisted living facility, I had a psychology bachelor’s degree, with a certificate in Gerontology. After much thought, I decided to apply to doctoral programs in counseling psychology, so I could further my clinical work and research with Geropsychology as my focus.

Rarely do students in counseling psychology training programs come across opportunities to work with older adults by accident. It may even be difficult to identify experiences that incorporate work with older adults. Since Counseling Psychology programs have traditionally been housed in colleges of education, we often encounter more convenient and visible opportunities to work with children and younger adults in educational and community settings. This is an issue of social justice. Our social work colleagues define social justice as “the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities” (NASW, n.d.). Older adults also need access to culturally-competent care by professionals that are appropriately trained in issues related to aging.

Given the shifting age demographic in favor of older adults, as well as the projected increase in psychological service provision to older adults, Counseling Psychology has an incentive to increase research and practice in Geropsychology. Moreover, according to Division 17, we have a social responsibility to “serve persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds in both individual and group contexts and provide consultation services to organizations that look to enhance their effectiveness or the well-being of their members” (APA Division 17, 2015). This description served as an invitation to unite my Counseling Psychology and Geropsychology identities in settings such as nursing homes and hospitals. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find such opportunities in programs that do not have an explicit emphasis on aging or Geropsychology track. Thankfully, if we do a little leg work, we foster opportunities to provide services to older adults in communities without pre-established practicum and research positions.

The following is a list of suggestions for counseling psychology students interested in working with older adults in research and practice, based upon my own experience:

  • Network. Connect with advanced students or program alumni to discover opportunities they had to work with older adults, or gain exposure to issues related to aging. Contact your training director, program chair, or clinical coordinator who may be able to put you in touch with these individuals.
  • Work closely with your clinical coordinator to establish possible training sites in your community or surrounding area that service older adults. No current practica in place? Check out this article, entitled, How to Find Practicums Outside of Your Program’s Current Affiliations, for tips for creating your own practicum.
  • Supervisors may ask you to identify your clinical interests or population of interest. In community agencies or hospital settings, request to work with older adults who may present for therapy or other psychological services.
  • Join national organizations such as our Division 17 OASIG, Division 20, Division 12/II, and Psychologists in Long Term Care (PLTC) to connect with other students who share an interest in working with older adults and to find mentors who can assist you in career development opportunities. Check out GeroCentral for more information.
  • Volunteer at local nursing homes, hospice organizations, or assisted living facilities to supplement your practicum experiences.
    • Consider finding a position as an elder assistant/resident assistant/ nurse aide. Added perk: this is a paid position, and provides significant opportunities to interact with other disciplines.
  • Look for online or community trainings that focus on issues specific to the older adult population (may be free or have student discount enrollment fee)

Finally, it’s important to realize that work with older adults is unique and quite different from work with clients in more traditional counseling psychology settings, such as college counseling centers. Keeping open lines of communication with faculty in your training program is essential to pursuing your interest in working with older adults and getting your needs met. Opportunities to work with older adults during graduate training may not happen without our initiative. By thinking outside of the box, we can fulfill Division 17’s mission for social justice by creating our own opportunities to provide services for older adults.


American Psychological Association, Division 17. (2015). What is counseling psychology?Retrieved from http://www.div17.org/about-cp/what-is-counseling-psychology/

National Association of Social Workers. (n.d).  Social Justice. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/pressroom/features/issue/peace.asp.

About the Author:

Shannon Patterson, M.Ed., is the Division 17 Older Adult Special Interest Group Student Social Justice Award Winner for 2016.  She is a pre-doctoral psychology intern at the Phoenix VA Health Care System where she provides mental health services to older adults in primary care. Her research focuses on the intersection of ageism and health status in individual psychotherapy and psychology trainees’ experiences on interprofessional health care teams. She can be reached at slpatterson7@gmail.com.

Older Adult Special Interest Group- 2016 APA Convention Highlights


Maggie Syme, Ph.D., MPH

by Maggie Syme, Ph.D., MPH, OA SIG Programming Chair

Going to Denver for convention? It is right around the corner and approaching time to prepare for talks, posters, networking, and fun. I get excited for convention every year, getting to see friends and colleagues and being inspired by all of the ideas and projects presented.

As you prepare for convention and scroll through the learning possibilities, the Older Adult SIG would like to share some of the dynamic aging programming available. Here is a small selection of programs separated out by a few interest areas. For a full listing of aging-related programming, please see the attachment to your email announcement prepared by the APA’s Office on Aging.

We would also like to congratulate our 2016 Division 17 Older Adult Special Interest Group Student Award winner, Shannon Patterson! She is conducting some excellent social justice-oriented aging research and practice, and will be honored (We will raise a glass in her absence!) at our SIG get-together at convention (see schedule below for time/place info).

Have a great convention!

Older Adult SIG social gathering is open to all and will be held:
Thursday, Aug 4th from 3-4pm at Backstage Coffee (1000 14th St, Denver, CO 80202) – very close to the Convention Center

For the CEU-minded conference goer, here are a few options:
Preconvention CE Workshop: Expanding Your Practice to Include Work with Older Adults
Wednesday: 8-11:50 a.m. | Sheraton Denver Hotel, Governor’s Square Room 10 at the Plaza Building (Concourse Level)
Preconvention CE Workshop: Behavioral Strategies for Dementia Prevention
Wednesday: 1-4:50 PM | Sheraton Denver Hotel, Governor’s Square Room 10 at the Plaza Building (Concourse Level)
Symposium: PTSD, Aging, and Neurocognition—Interactions and Clinical Management
Friday: 10:00AM – 10:50AM
Convention Center, Room 103
CE Workshop: Psychotechnology with Older Adults—Evidence-Based, Theoretically Informed Applications in Practice
Saturday: 8:00 AM – 3:50 PM
Sheraton Denver/Director’s Row J Plaza Building (Lobby Level)
Division 17 Member Laura Palmer is the leader!

For those interested in diversity-related programming:
Symposium: Conducting Research within a Social Justice Framework—From Research Question to Publication
Thursday: 8:00-9:50 AM
Convention Center, Mile High Ballroom 4C
Conversation Hour: Integrating Diversity into our Work as Clinical Psychologists – Implications for Geropsychology
Saturday: 1:00 PM – 1:50 PM
Convention Centre Room 505
Symposium: Meeting the Needs of LGBT Individuals Across the Lifespan
Sunday: 9:00 AM – 10:50 AM
Convention Centre Room 401
2 CEUs

For students, trainees, and early career psychologists, take these opportunities to network with potential mentors and aging-related internships:
Skill-Building Session: Post Docs, Licensure, Research, Oh MY! Preparing for a Career in Academia
Thursday: 8:00AM – 9:50AM
Convention Center/Mile High Ballrooms 2A and 3A Level 3-Ballroom Level
Committee on Aging & Council of Professional Geropsychology Training Programs Internship Networking Event
Saturday: 4-4:50 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom G
This is a “Meet and Greet” for students applying to geropsychology internships. Go network!
Skill Building Session: Money for You and Your Research—An Interactive Mentoring Workshop
Sunday: 10-11:50 a.m.
Convention Centre Mile High Ballrooms 2A and 3A
Sponsored by Division 40

Support the efforts of your fellow Division 17 and Older Adult SIG members!
Silvia Sara Canetto, PhD (and Ronald Levant, PhD)
Symposium: Gender Perspectives on White Male Suicide in the United States – “U.S. Suicide: Why are White Older Men So Vulnerable”
Thursday: 1:00 PM – 1:50 PM
Convention Center, Room 303
Fred Lopez, PhD and Katherine Ramos, PhD
Symposium: Coming of Age Online— Attachment Dispositions and Social Media Use
Friday: 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 17-Counseling; Co-List: 39, 46, APAGS
Convention Center/Mile High Ballroom 4B Level 3-Ballroom Level
Kate Hinrichs, PhD
Symposium: Improving Competence for Psychotherapists Working With Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adults
Friday: 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Convention Center/Mile High Ballroom 1D Level 3-Ballroom Level
Ashley Oliver, MS
Symposium: Student Voices—Examining the Complexities of Privilege and Power
Saturday: 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Division/Sponsor: 17-Counseling
Convention Center/Room 113 Level 2-Meeting Room Level
Michael Duffy, PhD
Texas A&M University
Invited Address: Professional Geropsychologists: The Legacy of Three Generations and Future Challenges
Saturday: 12:00 PM – 12:50 PM
Convention Center, Room 709

Division 20 Poster Session – Friday: 9:00 – 9:50 AM (Exhibit Hall)
Jennifer A. Aeling, MS
Colorado State University
Hospice Services As Experienced by LTC Nursing Staff and Their Perception of Resident Experiences
Maggie Syme, PhD, MPH and Tracy Cohn, PhD
Kansas State University
Describing and Predicting Sexual Risk Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Division 20 Poster Session – Saturday: 12 – 12:50 PM (Exhibit Hall)
Kristin M. Hultgren, BA
University of Denver
As We Age: Boomers’ Perspectives on Positive Aging
Grace Caskie, PhD
Lehigh University
Association of Positive Affect With Cognitive Decline in Older Adults of Mexican Origin