Aging is inevitable and is accompanied by many challenges and opportunities. Most elderly people, even those fortunate enough to live in advanced countries where high quality medical care is readily available and easily affordable, experience some decline in their physical functionality; most also experience a series of losses that can include the loss of a spouse or partner, of friends, of an occupation that has helped to defined the individual, and of a certain amount of autonomy (Lazarus, 1999). Even among the healthy and somewhat affluent elderly, a potential for depression and anxiety exists; as Richard Lazarus (1998) commented, older individuals are cognizant of the fact that their lives are approaching an end, and this can and often does engender a sense of hopelessness or even despair.
For the older person, the inevitability of death and of potential physical an intellectual decline is often a source of enormous emotional pain and difficulty (Lazarus, 1999). Old age is a time when the world seems, for many people, to shrink and to contract. Friends are lost, jobs and careers end, and one can feel that one's most useful and productive years have come to an end. From being a busy, productive and engaged individuals with much to contribute, one may sense that one is now an unimportant and unproductive person who must be taken care of by others.
This can lead, according to Lazarus (1999), to a sense of hopelessness. Other theorists agree; for example Coleman (1989) pointed out that depression is extremely common among older individuals, especially those who experience physical difficulties, social isolation, financial difficulties, or other problems that diminish their capacity for enjoyment or the ability to participate in meaningful relationships or activities. Older individuals who lack a supportive family or friendship network, who do not have strong religious or spiritual beliefs and value sys