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Leaves Shadow
  • Ajita Krishnan

Embracing the Journey: Confronting the Fear of Aging

Updated: Apr 10

In a world saturated with promises of eternal youth through anti-aging potions and cosmetic surgeries, the insidious fear of aging weaves its way through societal fabric. As one runs away from the inevitable march of time, are we falling victim to the proverbial bark outweighing the bite? It's okay to be afraid of the unknown, to mourn the passing of youth, and to wonder what lies ahead. But maybe, the key to conquering our fear of aging isn't in fighting against it tooth and nail, but in embracing it with open arms.

First, let us face our fears. What are the negative beliefs we hold about aging? We become slower, less mobile. We may be forced to live with pain. We may lose our independence and require assisted living. Our cognition may decline. Our lives will become narrower, confined to the home, devoid of new experiences. All this is possible. But the truth is that they are rarer and more manageable than we believe.

Our experience of aging, as with most things in life, is closely tied to our attitude. Let us transform our fears into possibilities. If we think on it, we all know of folks who remain full of life and vigor, who demonstrate that age is just a number. 

Here are some unexpected facts about aging that may help us reframe the story of gloom so many have built in our minds.

  1. Most people over the age of 80 are leading active lives. Individuals in this age group often defy stereotypes by embracing a wide array of activities and pursuits. From traveling the world to engaging in hobbies, volunteering, or even embarking on new career paths, these seniors demonstrate a zest for life that knows no bounds.

  2. Most older adults are happier, less tense and less angry than younger generations! Studies blow up the stereotype of the crotchety old neighbor. Research from Stanford University shows that happiness is positively correlated with age. We now know that the brain is capable of continually developing new neural pathways, and it is simply not natural to remain angry and depressed for long periods of time.

  3. Surprisingly, a recent Harris Poll showed a shift in the general perception of age. While a few years ago, folks were considered old once they reached their sixties, now many of their respondents see old as beginning at 80. They also see older people as more active and open-minded than in previous polls.

  4. The majority of people mobile in their 70’s. Advances in medicine provide more options for hip and knee replacements, and the recovery time and pain incurred by these procedures have significantly decreased. Society’s emphasis of fitness in our youth pays off in older years. There are plentiful opportunities to partake in physical exercise in our community. Serious illness is always a possibility, but science has taken giant strides in the treatment of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and osteoporosis. 

  5. Data shows that approximately 10 percent of adults over the age of 65 in the U.S. are affected by dementia. While this statistic may not be encouraging, it's important to recognize some positive developments amidst this sobering reality. Trends show that onset of Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly manifesting later in life, and new drugs have slowed down the development of the condition. 

  6. Only 5% of people over the age of 65 are living in assisted living. Many are able to live independently, with the assistance of family and local support systems (such as our own Eastside Friends of Seniors).

The fact is that aging is not all gloom and doom. With each year, we gain experiences, deeper perspectives, and a more diverse set of memories to cherish. It is an opportunity to continue our personal growth. Let's raise a glass to aging like fine wine – getting better with every passing year and leaving a trail of wisdom, laughter, and unforgettable memories in our wake.

Reference: Katherine Etsy PhD (September 16, 2023). Aging Is Hard. Social Psychologist Katharine Esty Spotlights 7 Fears—and How to Reframe Them as Possibilities.


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