Dreams and dream work of older adults in transition: A review of the literature
Older adults face unique life transitions related to retirement from paid work, relocation of residence to higher levels of care, and bereavement/end-of-life. Research exploring dream content and dream work for older adults can facilitate understanding about their unconscious experiences and emotions, can promote greater understanding about their mental health needs, and support dream work methods that enhance well-being for older adults in transition. Although studies in this area are minimal, there is more research about the transitions of bereavement and death for older adults as compared to research in the areas of retirement and relocation of residence for older adults. Dream research of the bereaved indicate the importance of dreams to facilitate the grieving process and to maintain a sense of connection with deceased loved ones. Studies about end-of-life dreams share common themes related to taking a journey and a sense of deceased loved ones waiting nearby. These studies also highlight dream content that expands across the entirety of life and may prompt reflection of unresolved issues. Implications for scholars and practitioners include research methods that promote continued rigor in the field and empirically based guidelines when providing dream work services to older adults in transition.