You start noticing your hair turn gray, you have a pain in your hip that won’t go away, and you can’t remember the last time you slept for eight hours straight, and it’s terrifying.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about how to cope when you’re scared of getting old. We’ll discuss what ageing means in a physical sense, why people are afraid of growing older, and what you can do to stop being afraid that ageing will happen to you too!
How I’m Feeling About Getting Older
Often, this feeling of fear of aging comes out of nowhere, and honestly, it hits people of all ages. It’s not as if a person turns a certain age and suddenly realizes they are old. It’s different for everyone.
This year, I turned 36. For some reason, this feels different than other birthdays. I’m now closer to 40 than 30, and I’m closer to 50 than 20. (That one hurts!) My 20-year high school reunion is only a year and a half away.
I took a picture of myself on my birthday, and it is black and white for effect. I’m wearing no makeup, and I’m not smiling. I have deep laugh lines, and my face is getting more and more asymmetrical by the year. Thankfully, I’m in good health, but I have more pains, more issues, and anxiety with every passing year. (Thankfully, I’ve been able to get rid of my anxiety disorder.)
When I was in my twenties, I enjoyed taking selfies (even before they were a thing), and I felt beautiful. But society, led by the patriarchy and the beauty industry, tells me that my beauty declines exponentially every year.
It’s no wonder that Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that a woman needs to decide whether or not to become bitter in middle age.
Ageing in Today’s Society
In a nutshell, ageing in today’s world is seen as a negative thing. Nobody wants to get old the same way no one wants to get cancer. The fear of getting old is a real thing; it’s called gerascophobia.
Older people are looked down upon and seen as disposable. You could perhaps blame capitalism for this: the treatment of people who don’t work daily to contribute to society is disgusting, including the homeless, stay-at-home moms, and the elderly who have retired.
We don’t want to be disposable. So we fight to overcome our ageing bodies. Cosmetic surgery is back on the rise after elective surgeries were limited during the pandemic. Whether it’s tattooing your eyebrows on https://microbladingla.com/microblading-with-an-eyebrow-tattoo-a-complete-guide or getting a more serious plastic surgery like a chin tuck, fear of getting old is pervasive in our society, and it shows in our national statistics.
Women are especially susceptible to this fear and less likely to accept aging gracefully. People expect women to remain youthful and vibrant despite ageing the same as men. This expectation could have something to do with women’s fertility ending after menopause, whereas men can continue to have children their whole life. In some studies, women had a two to three times more likelihood (when compared with men) of worrying about how their appearance would change in old age.
For example, here’s a typical example of something you might find about a man aging: Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp were described as a “fine wine” compared to youthful photos of themselves.
In contrast, here’s a woman’s post about aging in one of her photos. She claimed she could barely look at herself.
People Changing the Conversation
A former supermodel, Paulina, stands up for aging women by showing how women of her age can still be beautiful. She has a booming Instagram account that she frequently posts, challenging the beauty industry’s beauty standards. Paulina frequently wears sexy lingerie and poses in sensual ways.
Meryl Streep had said that when she turned 40, she began to get all kinds of offers for roles as witches. Of course, now, her roles have been groundbreaking, helping the world view “older” women as strong, ambitious, villainous, or beautiful.
Although she is not as old as Meryl or Paulina, Kate is challenging people’s views of aging as well. She does this by accepting her body, appearing in photos that have not been photoshopped, and talking about the challenges she has as a woman in her forties, average-sized (not model-skinny), and confident.
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5 Reasons You’re Scared of Getting Old
1) You’re afraid of declining health and death.
Let’s be honest; this is an obvious one. In our world today, fewer people die of disease and injury as they did generations ago before modern medical care. More people are living longer, into their 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond, and we get to avoid the fear of death until we’re getting much older.
As a person ages, their body beings to become weak, and their health gets worse. The future holds more aches and pains, more injuries, more health concerns.
Death and grief were just a part of life, but now, grief is silly unless we lose a child or spouse. When someone old passes away, we say, “They lived a long, healthy life. They will be missed.” Because we collectively don’t know how to grieve, we have a profound disconnect from death.
You fear death. No one knows what happens to our spirits when we die. We practice religions and spirituality, but no one really knows. And not knowing is terrifying.
When we get older, all the people in our lives are ageing too. Soon, our parents pass away, then friends and siblings, and if we read a certain age, even people younger than us start dying at a faster rate. Losing close friends to the death of old age puts your life into perspective.
My grandmother is 97. My grandfather passed away seven years ago. All her siblings (and his siblings as well) passed away before that. She has said that she is no longer consumed with fear of dying because she’s the only one left.
2) Your appearance is changing.
As a woman, people, men especially, have a particular interest in you when you’re young, thin, and energetic. This sexualization is, naturally, a human instinct to perpetuate the species, but it’s pretty disgusting how obsessed our culture has become with youth and beauty.
People do not view the elderly as beautiful. We see wrinkles, hunched over bodies, a natural effect of living life. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives (unless they die young), but we turn away from how older adults look.
3) You’re afraid of being a burden.
We all see the way older people are treated. We stick them in retirement homes or nursing care homes and leave them there. They were once running the world, but now they have no agency of their own. They play bingo and have lots of sex, but they don’t contribute to the world anymore.
Becoming a burden is magnified when you’ve already felt like a burden in your life in other ways, perhaps a burden on your parents when you were young or a burden on your partner during middle age.
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4) You/your skills are becoming outdated.
Some people might also see themselves as outdated. As society has more automation for jobs, some people’s skills will become less valued or demanded.
Not only this, but technology is advancing at a breakneck pace. The elderly who may struggle with technology to begin with feel the world has moved past them, and they’re not relevant anymore.
Your children no longer need you, and they often treat you with kid gloves. The world is moving on, and you’re being left behind.
5) You’re afraid your finances aren’t in order yet.
Often, retirement is seen as the ultimate part of our lives. People of retirement age get to relax, have fun, travel, and do whatever they want!
That is, unless you don’t have enough money to retire yet. Getting to a financially secure place to retire without worry is a big concern for many people. After all, money is one of the biggest causes of anxiety in the lives of people of all ages.
10 Ways to Cope with Your Deep Fear Old Age
Here’s the reality: getting old isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. (In fact, national statistics found that most people think you reach old age when you turn 85!)
You can learn to embrace ageing! It’s all about making small (and in some cases, substantial) changes to your lifestyle. These changes can help with your appearance (stop making your wrinkles worse!) and your strength, stamina, and mindset.
1) Quit smoking
The very first thing you want to do in taking care of yourself is to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is the number one thing that ages us drastically. Smoking doesn’t just damage our lungs, heart, and other organs. It severely affects our skin.
Smoking can cause dark spots, wrinkles, sagging skin, droopy eyelids, and puffy under eyes. Check out these seven sets of twins. One twin is a smoker; the other is not. Many of the pictures are jarring!
When you quit smoking, not only will you start to look better, you’ll start feeling younger as well!
2) Eat clean to slow the aging process.
If you’re worried about ageing, eating nutritious foods can help tremendously. Just as smoking ages us, so can a poor diet.
Sugary foods and drinks cause inflammation in the body that damages skin cells over time. In fact, sugar is linked to nearly every significant disease! It’s terrible for your skin as it causes collagen loss (the thing responsible for keeping our skin smooth and elastic.)
Focus on foods that are high in antioxidants, like blueberries and kale! These foods are full of the good stuff that helps you look younger.
Also, cut out or limit alcohol consumption as much as possible. Alcohol is very high on the list of things that cause your skin to age faster than it should.
3) Slow the ageing process by working out
Fitness is an excellent way to stay young. Exercise helps to build and maintain muscle mass, which is vital for looking younger. Muscle burns more energy than fat does, so the more lean muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn a day! If that’s not a reason to get up and move every single day, then I don’t know what is.
When it comes to looking younger, one benefit of working out every day is the increased blood flow to the skin. It helps bring oxygen to our cells and our skin. This oxygen keeps it looking young and healthy.
The best part is you don’t have to dedicate hours to the gym every day to see a difference. Just 20-30 minutes, three times per week will do wonders for your body. Aim for 30-minute sessions of strength training two or more days a week. Try some yoga for stress relief, or take a dance class. Do whatever type of exercise you enjoy that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat!
4) Spend time with the elderly in everyday life
As you get older, it’s easy to have fear for the elderly. We only see the elderly in nursing homes or assisted living facilities when they’re barely able to take care of themselves anymore.
The reality is that most seniors are pretty lively even if they need some assistance physically. Volunteering at a senior center or visiting your grandparents more often can help you see that the elderly are still just people and not so different from how they were when you knew them as a child.
Ask them stories about their youth, talk about their experiences, or have a fun time. Conversation will help to put your fears of growing old at ease. Remember, ageing is inevitable for everyone.
5) Spend time with children
As you get older, spending time with children can help to relieve your fears of getting old. Kids are so pure and innocent at heart. They don’t judge anyone or anything on first appearances.
Seeing how open-minded kids are will give you an idea of what it means to be young again! They have not yet learned the social stigmas that we have, so they are more likely to accept others.
Older people who spend time around kids will be less worried and concerned about growing older because kids don’t care how old someone is. All they see is another person with the same fears as them.
6) Work on your confidence
Living in fear of getting old is not going to help you live your life. You have a lot of great years left, and there’s no reason for you to fall into depression because someone told you that wrinkles are on the way.
One thing I always try to do is work on my confidence every single day. Even if it’s something small, like sharing a smile with a stranger or going to the grocery store in a dress instead of athleisure clothes, it doesn’t have to be a big gesture, just something you know will make you feel good about yourself and help your day get off on the right foot.
Remember, confidence comes from within, so get to know your true self. Accept the things about yourself that you don’t like and work on them, and focus on what makes you unique and different from everyone else. Find ways to build your confidence every single day until it becomes a habit.
7) Do new things
The longer we live, the easier it is to get rooted in our habits and routines. Older people have a stigma of being stubborn and inflexible. When you try new things, you show yourself that you can still learn new things and adapt to your surroundings.
Again, it doesn’t have to be a significant change, just something as simple as trying out a new restaurant or going for a walk in the park instead of running errands at the mall. Newness helps us adapt to circumstances and keeps us on our toes. It allows us to demonstrate our resilience.
Show them that an old dog can learn new tricks!
8) Advocate for public health and awareness
If you’re ticked off about how older people are treated in our world, use that frustration to fuel change. Speaking up about the stigma around age is a great idea, and don’t forget to point out when people say hurtful things.
The more we speak up, the less likely it is that younger generations will grow to think of older adults in a negative light. We’re in a historical time when the generations have some pretty severe differences in how they see the world. Talk to people of different generations to gain support and understanding. Start with your friends and family members.
9) Remind yourself of all the things getting old have given you
I’ve noticed that the older I get, the stronger I become. I’ve stopped letting people take advantage of me. I put boundaries in place when needed. I stayed silent when something bothered me in my past, but I’ve learned to speak up. I imagine the future will bring me even more strength and power.
Maybe you’ve gotten closer to your family. Maybe you feel a natural sense of the course of your life. Maybe you became a mother. Maybe you moved to a new country, and that would not have been possible in your youth. Getting older can bring us so many beautiful things! What has getting older brought you?
10) Be young at heart
Ageing is inevitable, and it can remind you of all the things you may worry about in the future, all the potentially not beautiful things that could happen.
But ageing only makes us seem old when we’re old at heart: when we let life harden us. Accept that growing older is just a part of life and that fear of aging doesn’t have to crush your spirit.
To be young at heart means to hold on to your sense of wonder and curiosity. To still see the world as a magical place where anything is possible! So don’t let yourself become so serious or afraid that you forget how to enjoy life, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
In conclusion, if you’re afraid of ageing, remember that it is a natural part of life and something we all have to go through.
The most important thing to do if you find yourself afraid or worried about ageing is to build your self-esteem up every single day! Try new things and advocate for public health awareness. Remind yourself of the beautiful things age has brought you, and don’t forget to continue to be young at heart.
I’m not afraid of looking older anymore. I’m not afraid at become bitter or getting set in my ways. I know that storms come and go, but my body is my temple and I will love it no matter my age.
Are you afraid of ageing?