By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: My 78-year-old father has been in a rut for years. He doesn't have any serious health problems, but he just seems upset about getting old. What can I do to help him? Keith in Alabama, 49

ANSWER: I often use remotivation therapy when an elderly person seems to have lost his zest for life. This can be caused by depression brought on by illness or like your father, just by enduring the aging process. Life is certainly not like it used to be for him. I try to make my clients focus on all that they have, who they used to be, and all that they accomplished in life. I try to bring my client's former self to the forefront so he can draw on some former strengths and move forward.

If someone was a seamstress, I might bring in sewing shears and a wooden darning sock so she can feel comfortable again. If she loved to cook a specific dish, we'll cook it together. I always like to bake cookies in the oven. The smells often bring back great memories. Remotivation therapy is all about bringing a significant positive part of the past to the present. Positive events that are ingrained in a person's long-term memory can cause a "glow" effect if brought to the here and now.

It's also helpful to consider your dad's reality from his point of view. Sitting down and discussing past times can trigger positive memories that might put him in a better frame of mind. This approach causes most of my clients to become more content, engaged, and motivated to make the best of things moving forward. If you help your father reach a happier place, he will increase his overall quality of life, and you'll gain great satisfaction knowing you were a part of his transformation.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.