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Hess, N. (2008). Looking Into Later Life: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Depression and Dementia in Old Age edited by Rachael Davenhill. Tavistock Clinic Series. Published by Karnac, London, 2007; 343 pp; £18.99.. Brit. J. Psychother., 24(3):380-381.

(2008). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 24(3):380-381

Book Reviews

Looking Into Later Life: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Depression and Dementia in Old Age edited by Rachael Davenhill. Tavistock Clinic Series. Published by Karnac, London, 2007; 343 pp; £18.99.

Review by:
Noel Hess

Psychoanalytic understanding, and the application of this understanding to clinical practice, has advanced in many directions over the past 50 years, but none as important, I think, as in the advances in the field of the psychoanalytic study of ageing and old age. Of course, psychoanalysis has always been concerned with ageing, in that it is concerned with emotional growth and development, and how this is synchronous (or not) with chronological growth. But it is only in recent years that this interest has been extended to a study of the latter half of the life-cycle. New ground was broken by Jacques's classic paper on the mid-life crisis, and that work has been built on and further developed by studies of the psychodynamics of old age by, among others, Segal, King and Hildebrand. This is important, not only because it deepens our understanding of the process of living and ageing (which go hand in hand), but also because it has meant that analytic help is now available to the elderly. We now know that when Freud in 1905 stated that patients over the age of 50 were unsuitable for psychoanalytic treatment - due to the supposed inelasticity of their mental processes - he was wrong. As a result this group of patients, previously excluded from treatment, is now being offered our help. Further, new services are being developed to make use of our new knowledge in this area. Old age is now established as part of the life-cycle as important in human development as infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood, as worthy of analytic scrutiny, and as amenable to analytic therapy.

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