John Libbey Eurotext

Gériatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement

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Late-life attachment Volume 15, issue 1, Mars 2017

Authors
1 Unité mobile de psychiatrie du sujet âgé, Paris, France
2 Pôle psychiatrique du 7e arrondissement, Centre hospitalier Sainte-Anne, Paris, France
* Tirés à part

Old age is likely to cause a crisis in one's life because of the vulnerabilities it brings up, acting as stressful elements disrupting the elder's feeling of security. It leads to the activation of what is called his attachment system, consisting in attachment styles and interpersonal emotional regulation strategies. To recover a higher sense of safety, the elder would refer to his attachment figures, that is to say closed people paying attention to him, showing towards him availability and consideration. However older adults particularly see their tolerance threshold lowered, regarding an accumulation of losses (true or symbolic) and stressful events within their lifetime. In a psychological and organic exhaustion phenomenon, the risk is to wear out the interpersonal emotional regulation strategies. These are as much vulnerabilities that may increase psychiatric decompensation, including depression. To resolve the tension of this period and to found a necessary secure feeling, the elder will have to redesign the attachment links previously settled and proceed to adjustments to this new context. The need of relational closeness comes back in the elders’ attachment behaviour, counting on attachment figures not only to help their loneliness or dependency, but essentially to support them in a narcissist and affective way. That is why attachment theory enlightens the late life period, such as the new challenges older adults have to face. Many studies recognize its value in understanding the transition to old age, but without proposing conceptualization. We aim first to focus on attachment conception to say how much it is relevant with elderly, and then to describe specific terms of attachment within this population in order to better understand those patients. To finish, we must think about new therapeutic proposals taking into consideration the attachment perspective for a better understanding of old age transition.