Why Do We Fear Aging?

Aging is a natural part of our existence.
Aging is a natural part of our existence.

“They say we leave this world just the way we came into it —— naked and alone. So, if we do leave with nothing, what then, is a measure of a life? Is it defined by the people we choose to love? Or is life simply measured by our accomplishments? And what if we fail? or are never truly loved? What then? Can we ever measure up?...."

- Lucas Scott -

Simply say the word "old" and what do we think of? A worn out shoe that has been thrown in the dumpster, a beloved T-shirt that is now full of holes from frequent laundering, or the house down the street with shutters hanging on hinges, pealing paint, and broken windows,

When we think of getting old, we think of our faculties not working properly, being in a nursing home, bent and frail, and loneliness. We think of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart attacks, surgery, and burying our loved ones. The current marketing strategies of our generation target our fears, selling everything from weight loss supplements to anti-aging creams.

The table below contains the responses to the question, "What do you fear the most about aging" posted on Hub Pages:

Fear
Percentage
Alzheimers/dementia
50%
Lack of Independence
50%
Lack of Resources
8%
Loneliness and Neglect
8%
Regrets
8%

What do you fear the most about aging?

  • Alzheimers, dementia, or other loss of mental ability.
  • Loss of independence.
  • Lack of resources for needed care.
  • Loneliness and Neglect.
  • Regret or being unfulfilled.
  • A combination of the above.
See results without voting

We have all asked ourselves questions about what could happen as we age. Below are some startling statistics:

  • Will I have a heart attack?

"For the 60 to 79-year-old age group, 70.2% of men and 70.9% of women have CVD" or Cardiovascular Disease (American Heart Association).

  • Will I get cancer?

"One in two men will get cancer. One in three women will get cancer" (Cancer Treatment Centers of America).

  • Will I get in an accident and not be able to provide for my family?

"Just over 1 in 4 of today's 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire" (Council for Disability Awareness).

  • Will I have to care for my aging parents?

"65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged" (Family Caregiver Alliance).

  • Will I develop Alzheimer's or dementia?

"The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every five years after age 65. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent" (Alzheimer's Association). "Age is the most significant known risk factor for dementia" (Alzheimer's Society)

  • Will I end up in a nursing home?

"More than 70 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care services at some point in their lives, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" (Wall Street Journal).


As we age, we grow in our understanding of how life works and why things happen.
As we age, we grow in our understanding of how life works and why things happen.

We don't know what will happen

Are these things really what we are most worried about, though? We know that we will all die at some point or another. We know that aging brings with it a gradual loss of our abilities. We are also well aware of the many things that we can do to slow the aging process with changes in our life styles. The underlying fear is that we do not know what will happen to us individually.

Before age fifty, we were on an uphill climb. Our goals and objectives had to do with starting and rearing our families and getting established in our careers. Each time we reached an important milestone, we added another one to take its place. We concentrated our efforts on purchasing a home, having sufficient vehicles for everyone to get where they needed to go, and helping our children grow in their education, talents, and abilities.

And then something happens. The "over the hill" signs at our 50th birthday party aren't just in front of us, they are in the back of our minds. We round the corner just far enough to see that there is an end to the road! We realize that at any point, we could be breathing our last. We hear about people dying of heart attacks that are younger than us. We see firsthand what happens when accidents take their toll. We personally know people who are walking away from the funerals of their spouses or children.

The fact of the matter is that the greatest risk factor we have is our advancing age. The older we get, the greater are our chances of ill health, loss of independence, and/or nursing home placement. It is not a matter of "if" these things happen, but "when." We would do well to plan for our future with estate documents that provide peace of mind for ourselves and our loved ones.

Once these documents are in place, our worries about what happens when we are no longer able to care for ourselves are minimized. Mortality is no longer about getting ahead, but about being the person that we were meant to be. We develop a desire to leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, and to help them learn the wisdom we have gained through the hard knocks of life. We decide that life is not just about accumulating things, but about being with those that we love. Tim Timmons sums it up nicely with his song "Starts With Me" in the video below.

Make the Choice*

Choose health before sickness settles the score, choose life before death comes to knock at the door. Choose to give before a request is made, choose to bring sunshine into the shade.

Choose to call before its too late, choose to unlock your garden gate. Choose to forgive before repentance is shown, choose to enlist before time has flown.

Choose to be wise before gray hairs appear, choose to be kind to everyone near. Choose to follow, though you are in the lead, choose to help others when they are in need.

Choose to be clean in body and mind, choose to bury any poison you find. Make the choice. Prepare a plan. Leave nothing to chance, take a strong stand.

Let others know what you believe before they assume that you'll take a reprieve. Go forward with faith there's a better world, and make it so with your flag unfurled.

Remember that there is room at the top, and not just for pails and a broom or a mop. Those who lead will be followed for sure, as others are looking for a pathway secure.

Build a bridge to the other side and others will follow you right in stride. Choose to be honest in all that you do, choose to see clearly a new point of view.

Choose to be prepared before the storm, choose to step now outside of the norm. Choose to teach others what they need to know before embarrassment steals the show.

Choose to speak quietly before others shout, choose to have time before it has run out. Choose to learn before circumstances require. Choose to sing peace before hearing the choir.

Finding a Higher Purpose

In order to keep the fears of old age from getting the best of us, we have to find a higher purpose for living. Just setting a goal to never come under a surgeon's knife isn't going to bring us peace and happiness in our advancing age. We have to find something to live for.

According to psychologist, Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, we reach a stage in our lives that requires a change in our focus. Once we no longer have young children dependent upon us for their keep, we may find ourselves slipping into a period of self-pity, feeling unloved and lacking in purpose. In order to counteract this stagnation, we adopt a sort of "mission" or "cause" that we champion. This gives us people to connect with, things to do, and places to go.

It carries us into our elderly years with strong feelings of self-worth, belonging, and companionship. Losing loved ones in the process is no longer a tragedy, but a necessary part of our life's process. We have something to sustain us, something beyond ourselves, and perhaps even beyond this world, that enables continued positive choices.

There will be plenty of opportunities to face our fear of ill health as we sit in doctor's offices and hospital waiting rooms. Each time we are faced with a crisis of health for ourselves and our loved ones, we will be wondering if we were meant to stay or go. And yet, "It is in our most difficult moments, when we are brought to our knees, that we realize there must be a power beyond our own that is able to save us from the unfortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves." This is how our fears become acquainted with our faith, as indicated in the Fear is the Foundation of Faith (September 9, 2014 post in For Your Emotional Health link to podcast).

Find your purpose today, and come what may, the fear of aging will not be the end of the road. For your emotional health.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

*Poem "Make the Choice" by Denise W. Anderson.

Fear is the foundation of our faith. It is in our moments of deepest doubt that we realize there is something beyond ourselves.
Fear is the foundation of our faith. It is in our moments of deepest doubt that we realize there is something beyond ourselves.

More by this Author


Comments 32 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well those early statistics were depressing. LOL

Not really. Denise, I honestly don't fear aging. I'm not too excited about the prospects twenty years from now, but there isn't much I can do about it other than to live life to the fullest for those twenty years. I've had a good life; I continue to have a good life; and I'm just going to ride this amusement ride for as long as possible. :)


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Just an awesome hub chuck full of good stuff and I especially loved the poem. I for one sure like getting older.


epbooks profile image

epbooks 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

I never understood why "Old" people feared getting old, but now that I'm in my forties, it has become crystal clear!!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I don't fear getting old or the word old I don't think of my life in that way I have too much to enjoy in my life. However, you have an interesting insight here.


Aysleth Zeledon profile image

Aysleth Zeledon 2 years ago from Russellville, Arkansas

Really enjoyed reading this! Feel enlightened.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

I witness this happening to my grandma and I feel...growing older is scary. The best really, is to focus on the present.


DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

I tend to think the purpose part is most pertinent. Sometimes I feel like I've done so much so that I don't know what could possibly be left to do. Then I remember the other 1,000 things on my bucket list.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I felt the same way, Billy! You are right in that there isn't much we can do about it at this point in time. I like your philosophy, to consider it an "amusement ride" and enjoy for as long as we possibly can!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for the feedback on the poem, Eric! I, too, prefer being older to being younger. It is much better to have all the knowledge and understanding we have gained through the experiences of our lives, rather than wondering what is going to happen and why people do the things they do!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is how I felt, epbooks. I just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, then I turned 50 and something weird started happening to my body! We just don't know what our future will hold. It is best to be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for your perspective DDE! The more we find to enjoy about life, the less we focus on those things that are difficult.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Aysleth, I appreciate your comment. The more we understand about the aging process, the better prepared we are to deal with it when it happens to us.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, midget38, the more we focus on the beauty of the present moment, the less we are concerned about the "what ifs" of tomorrow. Take the time now to make memories with your grandmother, then when she is gone, you will have no regrets!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That's right, DealforaLiving. You have found the key to emotional health for the remainder of life. The more we fill our time with meaningful things to do, the less we feel victimized by the aging process, and the longer we end up living as a result!


Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 2 years ago from India

A very thoughtful reflection on an imminent aspect of life ! Thank you very much.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

denise......If Peter Pan had a sister, I would be her. We first must GROW UP to begin fearing old age. My heart and mind are still in the "youth stage." I think I'm safe for a while!.....Thanks for this wonderful piece. I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You are a gifted writer. Up+++


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Denise, this is such a motivator toward emotional health. If we fear aging, we will be fearful every day of our lives. Acquainting our fear with our faith seems like the healthiest option. Thank you.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I appreciate the compliment, Harishprasad. It is interesting that the closer we get to the end of the road, the more reflective we become!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are one of the fortunate few fpherj48! You have a mindset that will carry you far into the future before you have to worry about such things! I appreciate your compliment and wish you well!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, MsDora, we would be! The older we get, the more we are reminded of our mortality! Without faith, life would be most miserable. As we put our trust in God and go forward doing His work, we will find purpose and meaning beyond ourselves.


Aysleth Zeledon profile image

Aysleth Zeledon 2 years ago from Russellville, Arkansas

Yes I totally agree. Thank you for writing this. God bless!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, Aysleth. Stop by again sometime!


Aysleth Zeledon profile image

Aysleth Zeledon 2 years ago from Russellville, Arkansas

I will defiantly take the time to stop by.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing the facts on aging. Upon reflection of those who have gone before me, choosing a lifestyle around healthy eating, exercise and positive outlook built on faith is what I plan to follow. Growing old is a process we cannot stop but how we face it will make the difference.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, teaches. The choices we make daily will determine how aging affects us, both physically, and emotionally. Your plan is a good one. I especially like the part about being built around faith. That is the key to keeping our perspective on aging!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

Growing old is inevitable. What's important is to prepare ourselves to face the same. In spite of taking all the care and precautions, some ailment might develop.

I don't fear getting old, but I wish to remain healthy and free from diseases. Our emotional health must also be sound, as you mentioned. For example, we should not start feeling lonely, if the children are not around. There can be job compulsions. Its better to develop interest in activities, which are beneficial for us as well as for the society.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub and ending on a positive note. Voted up!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, ChitrangadaSharan. The more we know and understand about aging, the less we fear its consequences. Having our health enables us to continue functioning in society as long as possible. You are right, in that our ability to alleviate loneliness depends upon developing interests in activities that keep us around others and doing things we enjoy.


Dr Pran Rangan profile image

Dr Pran Rangan 18 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

Very nice hub supported by statistics. It is true that we can age gracefully by following healthy lifestyle. But still aging creates fear in the minds of all. Connection with a higher power definitely alleviates the fear of aging. Thanks


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 18 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Dr. Pran. Now that I am entering the realm of the aging, this topic has weighed heavily on my mind. Writing the hub gave me much thought about my own situation and that of other members of my family. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 12 months ago from Ontario, Canada

Denise, those words in the picture are truly wise. It would be a great poster. Your poem speak so much wisdom that I wish You have those in cards so I can give them to my friends. You have a hub worth reading.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 12 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Mary. I appreciate your vote of confidence. If you would like to see the poem printed on cards (The "Make the Choice" poem?), contact me by e-mail at denise.w.anderson@gmail.com. Include a specific description of what you would like the product to be (folded greeting card with picture cover and poem inside or mini-poster of 8 1/2 x 11 on parchment paper suitable for framing) and how many you want. I will give you a cost estimate, and get them printed for you.

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