A Note of Introduction

Dear Readers,

It has been my privilege to guest edit this issue of Generations Journal on Mental Health, Aging, and Resilience.

When asked why this topic matters, one need only think about the growth of the aging population and the anticipated increase in the number of older adults who will need, utilize, and benefit from mental health services. Older adults are resilient and can continue to grow and thrive. They have so much to offer, so much to teach us, and there is so much we can learn from them. We—as professionals who have chosen to work in this field—have the responsibility to support older adults as they live their best and fullest lives.

As a psychologist who has spent much of my career focusing on the mental health of older adults, I am always reminded that mental health lies at the core of living a full and rich life. Especially as one ages. Yet, the literature focuses largely on psychopathology and available interventions to treat these psychopathologies. While such articles are crucial for those working in the mental health field, we also need to shift our way of thinking and embrace a strengths-based perspective that reflects resiliency and growth. As mental health professionals, we have the opportunity to build our mental health toolkit to include strategies that foster and cultivate resiliency as our clients engage in mental health services.

This issue of Generations Journal does just that. It shifts the narrative and encourages you, the reader, to consider the strengths and resilience of older adults and the innovative tools and approaches that can build our mental health practice.

Each author was asked to frame their articles with resiliency in mind. What follows is a brief snapshot of these articles. The journal opens with my article with Pamela Braverman Schmidt, “The Cultivation of Psychological Resilience as an Older Adult’s Superpower,” which frames the dimensions and underlying factors of psychological resilience and the tools that can be used when working therapeutically to cultivate resiliency as a catalyst for positive change. Resiliency really is an older adult’s superpower.

Jeremy Nobel’s article, “Alleviating Loneliness in Older Adults Through Creative Expression,” reminds us about the meaningful reconnection, the healing process and transformative role of engaging in creative endeavors to enhance well-being, reduce loneliness, and foster a sense of purpose and accomplishment—all components of resiliency.

Positive transformation can occur following a traumatic experience as described by Julie Weinman and Lisa M. Brown in their article, “Post-Traumatic Growth and Aging.” These authors shift how we generally think about trauma even further as they focus on positive change and growth as an outcome of adversity.

‘Resiliency really is an older adult’s superpower.'

Mental health help is often underutilized by older adults due to myriad barriers, including mental health literacy. Kim Williams and Lisa Furst’s article, “Mental Health Literacy among Older Adults: What Do We Know, and What Can We Do? highlights the importance of addressing literacy and developing literacy plans. Tracey Gendron’s piece, “The Impact of Ageism on Elder’s Mental Health,” addresses the pervasive impact ageism can have on an older adults’ mental health and the importance of addressing this prejudice in creating a more inclusive and mentally healthy society built upon strengths and not stereotypes.

A growing body of evidence supports the feasibility and effectiveness of task sharing in the mental health field. Patrick Raue and Kianna Seresinhe’s article, “Mental Health Task Sharing: Training Volunteers, Peers, and Interns,” addresses this via their innovative model, Do More, Feel Better.

Older adults who have been a victim of abuse or crime often struggle with acting on safety strategies. Jo Anne Sirey, Isabel Rollandi, and Clare Culver’s article, “Connecting Crime and Abuse Victims to Mental Health Services,” is practice-based, and covers the importance and value of connecting crime and abuse victims to mental health services.

The mental health needs of three groups of older adults with layered marginalities—undocumented immigrants, those with serious mental illness, and those with intellectual disabilities, are complex and the focus of Marcia G. Hunt, Teresa Moro, and Padraic Stanley’s article, “Unmet Mental Health Care Needs: Layered Marginalities in Older Adult Populations.”

The COVID pandemic opened the door and expedited the need for mental health services to be provided virtually and telephonically, spurring a new era of digital mental health, including the use of AI. This has created complexities around access, privacy, and regulation. The question still to be answered—“Digital Mental Health for Older Adults: Foe or Friend?” is well-covered in Saeed Hashem and Ipsit V. Vahia’s article.

Building the Geriatric Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce,” by Susan Buehler and Erin E. Emery-Tiburcio reminds us about the need to strengthen the geriatric healthcare workforce to meet the mental health and substance use needs of a growing older adult population, and how it is imperative that the field focuses on innovative and multi-level solutions.

A previous Generations Journal article from 1997 by Bonnie Genevay, “See Me! Hear Me! Know Who I Am!” remains relevant today. From a professional and personal perspective, Bonnie, a gerontologist and beloved member of ASA and of the former Mental Health and Aging Network (MHAN), reminds us of how important it is to value the whole person and not just the process of "assessment and diagnosis." 

Program Spots

This issue of Generations Journal also highlights two programs doing cutting edge work in the mental health arena. One model—“The E4 Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Disparities in Aging,” by Erin E. Emery-Toburcio, Susan Buehler, and Laura Donnan focuses on the 4 E’s: Engage, Empower, Educate for Equity—to educate providers and community-based organizations on how to provide more equitable behavioral health care for older adults.

The second program spot highlights the Ibasho model—led by eight core principles, it empowers older adults to co-create community that builds social capital. This program can be found in the program spot, “The Ibasho Model of Elder Empowerment and Community Ownership,” by Emi Kiyota, Christy Nishita, Yasuhiro Tanaka, Erin Ah Sue, and Helen Turner.

It is up to each of us to continue innovating and focusing on older adults’ resilience and strengths, in order to best meet the mental health needs of our aging population. I hope you take some time to enjoy this issue in its entirety and continue to cultivate resiliency.


Tobi Abramson, PhD


Photo credit: Shutterstock/chalermphon_tiam