'Late-life crisis' hits the over-60s

An elderly woman looking wistfully out of a window
Image caption Bereavement was the most common crisis that people in their sixties experienced

A third of people in their sixties go through a "late-life crisis", psychologists suggest.

Just under 300 people aged over 60 in the UK completed an online survey for the research.

Of the 33% who went through a crisis, bereavement was the most common trigger, followed by personal illness or injury.

Oliver Robinson told the British Psychological Society conference that people became aware of their frailty.

As well as carrying out the poll, the researchers from the universities of Greenwich and Sussex interviewed 20 people who completed the poll.

It showed that those who reported a "crisis" had all experienced two or more stressful events that had usually affected their health or someone else's, making them more aware of frailty and mortality.

'How much more can you take?'

But a person's response to their experiences appeared to be determined by how they had viewed life.

One in five said their views on life were unchanged - but one in three appeared to be heading in a "downward spiral" avoiding making plans to avoid being disappointed.

TJ, a more positive respondent, said: "I have another 20-odd years yet and I fully intend to live it, not just exist."

But EM said: "How much more can you take? How much more do you need to take?

"It's coming to terms, I think, with the reality of what life is now. And it's hard."

Those who felt negative often reported becoming withdrawn and increasingly isolated.

Loss-inducing events

Dr Robinson, who is based at the University of Greenwich, said: "The findings suggest that the 60-69 decade is a key time for developmental crisis."

"No one has looked at this before. It seemed an omission.

"For the vast majority, it's a good decade. But for a considerable minority - up to a third - it is not.

"People realise that they can't carry on as before."

He said that the reasons behind these "later-life crises" differed from the more recognised midlife crisis, where people are more concerned with where they have got to in life and, often, about their finances.

"It seems that when loss-inducing events occur together or in close proximity in time, a person's capacity to cope in their sixties is overwhelmed and a later-life crisis is precipitated.

"By better understanding such crisis episodes, psychologists are well placed to understand mental health problems in this age group, which may well be affected by the events of a crisis."

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