Why Your Fear of Growing Old Has Value
Many people have deep-seated fears about what life will be like for them when they are old.
While it is not a good idea go obsess about them, the truth is that such individuals are wise to pay attention to the realities of aging so that they can prepare themselves for them.
Not all of the problems people worry about will happen to every person, but if they live long enough, some clearly will.
This is because each person's situation is different, and each carries different burdens as the result of his individual history, lifestyle, luck and genes.
The bottom line is that no matter what one does or how he lives, there are no guarantees about how good or bad his old age will be.
The only thing someone can know is that at least a few of the reasonable fears they have about growing old will come to pass for him unless life blesses him with extremely good luck.
When my former husband passed away suddenly at the age of 47, most people viewed his death as a horrible tragedy. However, I soon realized that by dying early in life he would never have to worry about running out of money, suffering the severe pain that comes with certain illnesses, being left alone in life, having to suffer through the deaths of his parents, spouse or good friends or find himself living in a nursing home and at the mercy of total strangers.
These thoughts made his passing easier for me to bear and feel that he actually was fortunate to have passed away at a relatively young age.
Yes, he missed out on many good things, too, but at least he no longer had to live with the fears that plague so many of us about growing old.
Inability to Escape Aging
One of people's worst fears is that they will age. In truth, unless they die young, aging is an unavoidable process of nature for every living creature.
Regardless of how beautiful or handsome, rich or poor, popular, hard working, loved, admired or respected the average person was when he or she was younger, many of those attributes slowly fade away as time passes.
What remains later in life for most people is diminished mental and physical capacity, disease, pain and suffering.
Knowing that these things are lurking in the future creates a subtle discomfort that eats away at the psyche and makes people want do whatever they can to avoid facing these issues.
However, the truth is that all of the makeup, plastic surgery and attempts at youthful behavior will not stem the flow of time.
Looking and acting young is not the same as being young!
Thus, those who depended on some of the attributes mentioned above to provide the driving force in their lives have good reason for worry.
I know an 80 year old woman who has spent her life using her beauty to manipulate and control men. She didn't develop a good value system or even a meaningful sense of self esteem.
Her looks are only a shadow of what they once were. Since she chose to depend solely on them to get what she wanted in life, she is now left with nothing but her own remains.
Less attractive women of the same age or those who have lived honestly and responsibly generally are doing much better than she is.
This woman spent her entire life obsessing about her looks because she thought that by preserving them she could avoid aging. She might better have spent her earlier years building loving relationships and respecting rather than using men to get what she wanted out of life.
Loss of Value
Aging doesn’t happen all at once. It is a slow, agonizing process that many people feel is a fate worse than death.
They all want to be noticed and feel that their lives matter. Even though those with this attitude work hard to achieve this goal and may even succeed, they fear that once they are old their accomplishments will no longer matter.
This is often true for the average person, but those whose accomplishments are well-known usually do well because the things they've done have bee hugely important.
For the rest, the sad truth is that they learn that to be old can, and often does, mean to be untouched, unloved, weaker, more needy and somehow less worthy.
Loss of Independence
The aging process begins the moment people are born and ends with a complete loss of independence and control.
- Health fails.
- Tasks take longer to do or require assistance.
- More time is spent doctoring and
- Mental and physical disabilities take over lives.
As a result of these issues, people socialize less, stay home more and live in constant fear of falling or being struck with a serious illness. If you are lucky, you have loved ones who can help you or enough money to hire people for assistance. If not, you struggle and live in fear until finally you are forced to move into some sort of supervised living facility.
Greater Chance of Serious Illness
It is when your body is at its weakest that major illnesses show up.
Once they do, people rarely are able to get rid of them. Many are very painful, and required medications usually have very negative side effects.
These are harsh lessons for people who always assumed that doctors can cure any illness. They can’t.
Once individuals get diseases such as Arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes and Degenerative Disk Disease, they spend the rest of life just trying to hold them at bay.
These things happen even to those who took care of themselves throughout their lives, but they generally happen sooner and more often to those who did not.
Loss of Mental Capacity
One of the worst fears people have about the aging process is the potential for losing their mental faculties.
Dementia can strike at any age, but is statistically more likely to appear in people's later years.
This disease renders individuals incapable of doing most things and usually forces them into facilities that specialize in caring for people who have it.
If they are lucky enough to have loving family members who oversee their care, they do better. However, many have nobody left or have family members who ignore their problem.
These people are at grave risk for all sorts of abuse, and many suffer horribly.
Being placed in a nursing home due to any health problem is never good, but being put there due to dementia is a person's worst nightmare.
Far too many people assume that the monthly income from Social Security will be enough to support them once they retire, but this simply is not true.
Since the current average Social Security benefit right now is just under $1400 per month, it should be obvious that this will not be enough money to pay basic living expenses.
In order to earn enough passive income to survive comfortably, older people also need investment and pension income.
Since pensions no longer exist for many people, most have to depend solely on the income from their investments and Social Security.
Unfortunately and for a variety of reasons, the great majority of elderly people end up trying to live on Social Security income, which basically means they are living in poverty.
This means they spend what is left of their lives living in substandard conditions.
Those with good incomes live better because they are better able to
- get quality health care,
- travel and
- live in decent housing,
but all the money in the world cannot protect them from the other issues involved with aging.
Loss of Loved Ones
Nobody wants to die, but nobody wants to outlive the people they love, either. Unfortunately, people have little choice in these matters.
As time goes on, those who live long lives often must suffer through the deaths of the people they loved the most.
Some, who live too long, end up outliving everybody they ever knew!
For many the thought of having nobody left in the world who knows and cares about you or can help you in times of need is worse than dying.
People tend to think that the relationships they have when they are young will remain the same throughout life, but this rarely happens.
- The portrait of a loving family taking care of mom and dad in their older years is mostly false. Caretaking is hard, frustrating and tiring work, and most children have little appetite for it.
- Friends move away, pass away or end relationships due to conflicts.
- People become too frail or sick to be able to socialize.
- Only the most fortunate still have good relationships with others as they move on into their later years, and many of those are fleeting.
Becoming isolated due to these problems can be depressing and lonely, but unless the elderly who find themselves in this situation are able to move into some sort of group living situation, they spend the rest of their lives alone.
Loss of Control
The biggest fear for most elderly people is that they will end up in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
They know that this means they will lose all control over their lives because the costs involved in staying in these places can be as high as $14,000 per month, which means they will have to pay out almost every cent they have in order to qualify for government assistance.
It also means they will never have a normal life again and are likely to become institutionalized.
The Realities of Aging Are Worth Fearing
As people age, most become increasingly plagued with problems and needs that tear at their lives. Many
- live with constant, deep, aching pain,
- go from day to day without the comfort of simple conversation,
- wonder how they will pay for their next round of chemo or dialysis,
- fear yet welcome death and the relief it will bring or
- hunger for a smile or a hug from someone.
It’s not a pretty picture, and not all of these things happen to every person.
This is why people should take steps early in life to prepare themselves for what is to come by doing whatever they can to build up their finances, maintain relationships and protect their health.
Doing these three things can go a long way towards easing the fears people have about growing old and improving one’s quality of life when the process finally catches up with them.
Do you think that when you grow old people will treat you differently?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle