Dr. Dee Unterbach
How prescient of Suzanne Sheridan to create a photo essay on older women. This project comes at a point in our lives when one of our DEVELOPMENTAL tasks is LIFE REVIEW, which Bernice Newgarten labeled young-old (65-74), middle-old (75-84) and old-old.
As a kid, my passion and talent was playing sports. I enjoyed working hard. Training and practicing would hopefully give me a head start.
After co-founding a residential therapeutic community for teens (VERITAS), I began working in the then-emerging field of gerontological social work: first, in-home care matching poor older woman with poor younger, often immigrant, women of color; then we founded the first geriatric mental health clinic (SPOP) in New York City.
My good fortune came when my mentor, Dr. Rose Dobrof, invited me to join the training faculty of Hunter-Brookdale Center on Aging. We developed training for senior center, home care and nursing home workers.
As an athlete, I figured I would get a good head start at 25 learning from those aged 85. I’ve learned that our time on earth is brief and therefore we have earned the right to use our time as we uniquely desire.
Now that I’ve aged in Aging, and treat older people in supportive psychotherapy, my purpose converges. I work, in part, to counteract the stereotyping and isolating reductionism of the social pathology of Ageism (see “Why Survive” by Butler).
As I retrospect, introspect and prospect the goal of conserving my energy to invest in Freud’s suggestion, “to work and to love” becomes more underscored.
Hopefully I’ll do both in my 8th decade as a gerontological social worker in Wilton, CT, and in all of my personal and professional relationships.
Thank you, Suzanne, for your artistry and activism.