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Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Fear of Aging

category_bug_journal2.gif The fear of death is as old as human consciousness and it is a powerful deterrent to doing stupid things, on our way to the grave, that might kill us before our time. Still, few like to be reminded they are mortal and although it is rarely acknowledged, much of the ageism and age discrimination evident in U.S. culture must be attributed to that most primal of fears.

Old people remind others that they too will wither and die one day, so elders are often made outcasts – ignored, sometimes vilified for being greedy geezers, fired from their jobs before younger workers, and urged into retirement villages where they are isolated from the general population.

No wonder everyone is afraid of getting old.

But with aging come some excellent compensations that can be gained in no other way. Here are some of the things I like about getting older:

It is an enormous relief to have lost concern for my appearance which afflicted most of my adulthood. Now, “I yam what I yam,” as Popeye said, and at 64, I really mean it. I’m invisible to men these days, but the need to be noticed in a sexual way is gone with the waistline. Do I wish my face hadn’t got so pudgy in my old age? Well, yes. But I had the misfortune to be behind the door when they were passing out those gorgeous facial bones that give women like Katharine Hepburn such an attractive old age. And them’s the breaks. It’s okay.

Although my nature will never allow me to reach the Zen-like state of equilibrium I aspire to, my patience and tolerance have grown a great deal in just the past five or six years. Sometimes, now, I recognize when an argument is pointless and I can walk away from it even when I think I’m right.

If I can’t shrug when things don’t go my way, at least I don’t require myself to be stoic and pretend it’s all right anymore. When I lost the bid on the home I wanted in Maine last week, I cried. I even wailed a little. Sometimes bad things happen. In old age, I know to grieve for awhile, to feel the pain and then get on with Plan B.

More genuinely than in my youth, I can be pleased for another’s accomplishments even when they impinge on my beliefs about my talents and capabilities. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others.

And nowadays, I eat ice cream, only ice cream, for dinner when I feel like it without a twinge of guilt.

The most interesting thing about these changes is that they have happened without effort. They came along little by little on their own and I noticed most of them only in retrospect, after they had become part of my being.

To younger people, these may not seem, now, to be just compensation for a wrinkly face, limited energy and the aches and pains of old age, but they are infinitely more satisfying than the transient benefits of youth - or at least they feel that way. And the best part is that everyone, no matter how afraid they are of getting old, will find these and other rewards waiting for them when their later years arrive.

The important thing is to appreciate each era of life in its time.


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:50 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Amen. If anyone had told me how enjoyable life could be in your sixties, I wouldn't have believed it. There's delight to be found in such small things. And at last there's no need to hurry any more.

Very true, Ronni! We must learn to appreciate each decade of our lives. I love the fact that I don't care about the wrinkles and spreading middle anymore. I posted a photo of myself at age 20 on my blog last night, and if I knew how to do it, I would post an age progression, as you have. I sure don't look much like that photo now!

It is so interesting to see how a person changes over the years. The essence remains, no matter how changed the physical appearance is.

I was planning to post about your post on my own blog, but the evening got away from me. Suffice to say I couldn't agree more. In many ways it's better being older and pudgier than younger, thinner and stressed out about not being thin enough or something else enough. The older I get, the easier I feel in my own skin, saggy and problematic as it might be.

Maybe I'll get a post in on the subject over the weekend. Right now I'm starting to have more drafts than posts.

Ronni I LOVE this comment you made:

And nowadays, I eat ice cream, only ice cream, for dinner when I feel like it without a twinge of guilt.

Way to go !!!

Chancy

PS: I keep picturing you getting settled in Portland and either writing a book or some columns for the local newspaper or teaching creative writing at the local college. Don't ask me why but I keep envisioning that for you....:)

Thank you, Ronni.

It's crazy, isn't it? It's not like one can stop growing older short of death...and thankfully for most people suicide is NOT an option! I wonder where people get this idea that getting older necessarily means a decline. For me, life got better after age 40...I was a total mess in my teens, 20s and even early 30s. Wouldn't roll back the clock for all the tea in china.

Thank you for being out there. Am about to do a program on aging for a woman's group in Rockland, Maine. What good books on aging have you found? Have scanned the net but want personal recommendations.

It has been sobering, eye-opening but ultimately reassuring to read this article and the remarks which follow on. I suspect I maybe the only man that has commented on your posting, but it has certainly given me some insight into the pressure and anxiety that women feel about the onset of age.

It is ironic that, by and large, we live in the most prosperous, stable and materially plentiful time in history, only for us to waste our time fearing something that we can do nothing about.

I'm 42, and I returned from a brief trip to London at the end of April, and returned changed, overtaken by a sudden, unexpected and unprecedented fear of growing old; the fear of death in itself (save for the anxiety and upset that it may cause those I leave behind) is nothing to me, but the years between now and that day fill me with a sense of dread.

What a terrible waste that the extra years that our foremothers and forefathers fought to attain for us are thrown away on anxiety. In the face of such fear, how can we truly be free?

Reading your comments reminds me that I can leave my fears behind, and become comfortable in the only skin I'll ever have...

That's quite the read.

I'm 18 and I fear aging very immensely. Sometimes I fear that if I'm not going to be married with children by 40 or so, I'd probably die by suicide before hitting 60.

The topic of aging just seems so intimidating and cruel; sigh. Well, looking at old rockstars like mick jagger and old martial arts masters and fitness gurus does give me some hope. I suppose it just acts as incentive to stay in shape.

However, just because you take care of yourself, it doesn't protect the ones you love.

I'd be very sad if my significant other and my friends passed away long before I did; I'd be very depressed, and coupled with all the other tragedies that aging already brings, well... I just can't help but feel as though I'd *HAVE* to suicide at some point.

It just seems too depressing to me... sigh...

Well, at least with facebook and youtube, who I am and will be will resonate throughout time for as long as the internet exists. (So long as youtube and facebook aren't taken down, that is haha)

Ahem, hopefully my comment didn't depress too many people, but it's been on my mind for a long time (otherwise I wouldn't have stumbled upon this blog entry).

I'm 20 years old and :

- i have a lot of patience
- I eat icecream for dinner and even for breakfeast if i want
- I don't care what people say about me
- i feel good about myself and i don't care about the way i look.
(Because when you are young you dont have to think about that. You always look good and dont need make-up).

I think that you don't have to be 60 years old to experience all that you wrote and feel good about yourself.

Most 50-60 year old women that i know are very depressed and sad and i understand then.

I'm VERY AFRAID of aging and i don't see anything good about that:
- You loose energy
- You loose beauty
- You loose health
- You loose everything that is good in life

I spoke with my two grandmothers and they told me that aging is TERRIBLE.

It is interesting this journey of life. It really is a journey.

When I was young, I felt much like the previous two writers, but now I am 50 - I have found that life was very different than I thought it would be.

Loving your children is a different experience than I thought it would be. Loving aging parents, I always thought that would be hard, but its not, its very rewarding.

Dont look too far ahead, and dont waste your life worrying about stuff that isnt your business just yet. When its time for you to hit being older - you will find that you are given all you need to deal with it. Oh and by the way - I was more depressed during my 20's and 30's than I have been from my 40's on, so dont judge too fast how it will be.

For now, enjoy being 18 and 20 - they will never come again - but remember - the best is yet to come.

Jennifer

I think a lot of people fear aging, but put it out of their mind as they think nothing can be done about it. We tell ourselves that it's okay. That it's 'natural' to grow old and die, and therefore we should be able to see it in a positive light.

But here's the thing. We are right to fear aging. Aging is, in no uncertain terms, a bad thing. It is by far the number one cause of death (100 000 people every day). It causes illness, frailty and dementia and suffering. Aging is a scourge. A disease no different from cancer or stroke (both of which it causes) Fortunately modern science is working on ways to end aging altogether by periodically rejuvenating the aging human body back to a youthful state.

If you are one of the few people brave enough to see aging for the abomination that it is, lend your support to this field of science. Together we can make aging a thing of the past. Many today living could experience longer healthier lives as a result. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_extension and www.methuselahfoundation.org for more details.

Hi, I'm 22 and I have feared ageing and death since age 10 (no kidding). Usually the depression fades away, only to come back a few years later. My life is not in balance, and right now it feels like I'm a total mess. I am only waiting for this feeling to go away so that I can continue living a normal life again. I aspire so many things (getting a good job, getting married, do something significant with my life) and I fear not being able to make them happen before I leave this world. Reading your post made me feel better, and I hope that I can gather enough energy to keep fighting. Peace.

I randomly came across this site and, I too fear death and aging. I'm already wishing I could re-do college and I'm still experiencing it; just would have gone somewhere different. but anyway...
Ronni, I'm a grad student in the OT program at UNE in Portland Maine. Throughout the year, UNE has a lot of speaking events and and symposiums one a given topic. Aging and death are important topics to consider as OT's and in other health care professions that are studied at UNE. So as someone else had commented above if your in the area check out the local college and speak about your thoughts/perspective on aging! They seem enlightening.

Hi I am 23 and be turning 24 this october. I am fearing old age like it is no tommorrow. I too had this same fear at 17, 18,19, even 20. Now it's back. I am just panicing out my mind. Like I want to die so I don't have to reach old age. I see no other solution to overcome it. Yeah it's "apart of being human", but why!!!!! all because "adam and eve" sinned dooming us all with other curses. Right now I see nothing positive about old age. Other than people say you get wiser. However, Do we neccesary have to go through the physical consquences of aging. I am afraid to commit suicide, but with aging and among other things in the world I see no way out or on how to deal with it. I tried speaking to others about it but they say deal with it, you can't change it. Which that I see is obviously true but I am still worried and fear at heart. If I didn't have fears of aging and knew how to deal with issues in the world, I believe I will be at peace right now. Maybe I am weak, or mentally disturbed, but it's very dire for me right now. When I was a kid I want to be older, because I had no fun(no buddies, didn't know how to communicated with others, being bullied on, sometimes hard to get along family, along with some of my bad mistakes. Unless I died sometime soon or something happens where time stop, It's looks as this fear of aging along with anger and worry will be staying with me. bye.

I fear death more than ageing, and ill health above them both. I'm almost 50, and I have been blessed to look 30-something (unless people are lying to me, ha-ha) and to be in relatively good health. Ageing downside is the looking older and slowing down, but I wouldn't trade the confidence and assurance I have gained. When I was young I was shy, insecure, poor and sick! My whole 20s was spent in the hospital and being fat after that. I had no fashion sense, I was plain and had no love in my life. All that has changed. I'm slim, attractive, I own my own home and I married the love of my life. PLUS, they have non-surgical face lifts and botox. I haven't needed that yet, but if I start looking weird I'll use it!

I fear aging and death like the posters above nothing good about it and I'm only 22 but live with my elder grandparents. Seeing those you love grow old and frail is so very painful I won't sit here and accept it as mine and my loved ones fate. I hope rejuvenation biotechnologies will reverse aging for my parents, husband, and I. That's why we have to support rejuvenation biotechnology organizations like sense.org check them out! Its the one thing that gives me hope in life

I meant sens.org

everything that ive read on this site seems to hit the nail right on the head. while i don't have a facebook acc't and don't ever comment on anything i read online, this really hits home. i'm 59 and generally doing very well. however, after taking care of my parents for 9 years,through devastating illnesses, dementia and final decline into death, i can't seem to find my anchor amymore. i would like to once again feel like i'm 100 percent in my life - not 50 percent here and 50 percent perseverating on the inevitable. prayer helps - but not enough. even when i hug my husband, my mind begins to wander to the possibility of his being gone and me a widow. he's not even sick! we're both incredibly healthy. but 9 years have taken their toll. i think, though, that all the entries i've read here have helped. ill know soon enough. if anyone has anything to add, that would be great.

please excuse the stream of consciousness - its just easier

I'm 39 and am terrified and depressed about growing old. I don't see a high possibility of me finding a woman due to shyness and avoidant personality disorder, so-called. I feel like crying but I am unable. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. This is a horrible feeling.

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