Another birthday, another year gone. While most people consider birthdays a happy time and a reason to celebrate, many others approach them with dread because they are afraid of getting older. This fear of aging, also called gerascophobia, is for good reasons.
So many things happen to us as we age, and for most of us, the older we get, the harder life becomes. Whether you are in your teens, 20s, 40s, 60s, or beyond, anyone can be afraid of aging, and many people feel depressed about getting older whenever their birthdays come around.
However, despite the fear and sadness about growing old, there are so many good things that can come with age too, and learning how to be okay with getting older could help you improve the quality of your life.
But what causes the fear of becoming old in the first place and how can you cope with getting older? Read on to know the reasons why you are afraid of aging, so you can understand yourself better and finally accept the various stages of life.
Why People Are Afraid of Aging
There are many causes of gerascophobia and why people dread their birthdays as they grow older. Below are some of the reasons why people are afraid of aging and feel depressed every time they turn a year older.
- Feeling like you are running of time
One thing that sucks about growing older is the feeling of having failed someone else or yourself for not being where you thought you would be at your current age. Some life milestones you are expected to have reached by the time you hit particular ages include finishing school, getting a job, moving away from home, getting married, buying your first house, having children, among many others. As you grow older and come closer to the ages when particular life milestones are supposed to happen, you might feel like you are running out of time to achieve these goals and have your life together and all figured out.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen at the expected pace. Hence, one of the main reasons why people are afraid of aging is because they have time-bound goals – set either by them, their parents, or society – they are yet to achieve and the deadline is near.
The intrusive questions and comments from family members, friends, and even random people, as they try to measure your accomplishments against your age do not help curb your fear of aging and feelings of failure either, and this makes you hate getting older even more.
- Loss of youth
As you get older, your body changes in many ways, some of which you might not like, thereby making the loss of your looks and youth among the reasons why people are afraid of aging. Your skin becomes less elastic, making it easier to have wrinkles. Your hair becomes gray, and you might go bald as well. As you age, gaining weight also becomes easier and losing it harder.
Aside from the physical changes, some activities could be considered inappropriate for someone your age, and you might be forced to live a more low-key life. Being told that, because of your age, you shouldn’t do something you would like to do or people giving you the side-eye if you do it can suck and make you hate growing older.
These changes push a lot of people to try to hold on to their youth and chase perfection by using the numerous anti-aging tips, procedures, and products available, which, unfortunately, can lead to skin and health problems later. Coming to terms with the inevitability of losing your good looks and youth as you age will help you learn how to be okay with getting older, and thus, avoid having a midlife crisis.
- Fear of deterioration of health and death
Most age-related physical health problems and cognitive decline begin in late adulthood. Unfortunately, some of the conditions often occur simultaneously because your immune system doesn’t work as well as when you were younger. Knowing that becoming older is increasing your risk of getting sick and dying is another reason why people are afraid of aging and feel depressed during their birthdays.
This fear of aging is even worse when you are aware that you are at a higher risk of getting a particular health condition because of your family’s medical history or if you already have a chronic disease with a short life expectancy. A feeling of dread that your time is running out accompanies every birthday you celebrate, thus making it paramount for you to learn how to be okay with getting older.
- Losing loved ones
Just like you are afraid of dying due to old age or disease, your reason for being afraid of aging could be that you don’t want to lose your loved ones through death by old age as well. As you grow older, so do your parents, grandparents, and siblings, and every year that passes brings you closer to when you will have to say a final goodbye to them. When learning how to be okay with getting older, you must also learn to accept death as a part of the cycle of life and spend as much time with your loved ones as you can when they are still here.
- Financial insecurity
With advancing age comes health problems and retirement from work. If you didn’t plan for your golden years in advance, you might be afraid of aging because you don’t know how you will support yourself and your family financially when the time comes when you can’t work anymore. You fear that you have nothing to contribute and will become a burden to your family.
How to Be Okay with Getting Older
- Be grateful
Practicing gratitude is one way to embrace aging and learn how to be okay with getting older. Sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to get to the age you are currently, and so you should be grateful for getting that chance and having more time to spend with your loved ones. As many of us came to realize since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, life is short and unpredictable, and so we have to appreciate every second we are alive and all the small things or wins along our journey.
Also, be grateful for the new opportunities, experiences, and challenges, that growing older presents because they play a part in your personal growth. By recognizing how precious time is, you feel thankful for having it and thus, make better use of it.
- Own your life
One of the reasons why people don’t like getting older is because they haven’t reached the life milestones they are expected to have achieved at their age, either by society or even their parents. For instance, many people are expected to get married and start a family before reaching 30 years. And as they get closer to the milestone ages, the fear of getting older intensifies, and they begin to feel like time is running out.
But the decisions you make regarding your life should not be influenced by other people’s expectations or opinions unless they will directly affect them. Taking charge of your life and owning it is one way to learn how to be okay with getting older.
You are responsible for how your life plays out, therefore, live your life the way you want, and make decisions when you are ready to make them. Remember that the only person who will suffer most from the consequences of your poor choices and have regrets later in life is you. So, do what is best for you.
- Change your attitude towards aging
Becoming older can be great too! One way to embrace aging is by changing your attitude towards getting older. To learn how to be okay with getting older, look at the positives that advancing in age brings into your life because as some chapters close, others open as you age.
For example, going to college and making new friends, starting a job and earning your own money, living on your own and having more freedom, getting married, having kids or grandchildren, becoming more mature and wiser, retiring, and having more time to spend with loved ones or on your hobbies.
Another good thing about getting older is that it makes it easier for you to be in charge of your life, speak up and make yourself heard, and stand up for yourself or the things that matter to you. You will overcome your fear of aging if you learn to view getting older as an opportunity to become unapologetically yourself, have new experiences, and make more memories.
- Live in the moment
Instead of feeling depressed about getting old and dying in the future, choose to focus on the present. What is so bad about this particular moment? You are not dying right now. So what can you do to make this particular moment good? Can you travel, go outside and feel the grass, spend time with your family and friends, try something new, or do something you love? There is so much you can do right now instead of worrying about things you can’t control or change. Living in the moment will help you keep the thoughts and fear of aging at bay, and thus you will learn how to be okay with getting older.
- Embrace change and practice self-love
Growing old is natural, and no matter how much we might not like how our bodies are changing or even try to keep the signs of aging at bay, it will happen eventually. To learn how to be okay with getting older, accept that change is the one constant thing in life. So, instead of feeling self-conscious about the new wrinkles you might have or being anxious that gray hairs will sprout on your head without your knowledge, learn to love, accept, and be kinder to yourself. Embracing the changes happening to you will help you learn how to be okay with getting older and love your authentic self.
- Prepare for your future
The fear of aging is caused by many factors, some of which you can control or change. For instance, if becoming less fit, less mobile, sick, retiring, or financial insecurity are the reasons you are afraid of aging, there are so many ways you can prepare for old age and make your later years better. Planning for your future in advance will reduce your anxiety about aging and help you learn how to be okay with getting older. Some of the things you can do today for your future self include saving and making better financial decisions, creating a vision board to manifest your dream life, investing in yourself by taking care of your mental and physical health, and surrounding yourself with people who influence your life positively, and changing careers.
From the moment you are born, you immediately start aging because that is the natural progression of life. Unfortunately, being afraid of growing old could make you get stuck in life, hold you back from going after your dreams, and influence how you make decisions. Thus, it is important to learn how to cope with growing older. Besides, aging is not that bad. Getting older can be great and has a positive side to it.
The one thing you should remember when learning how to be okay with getting older is that age is just a number. And while that sounds oversimplified, it is true. Accept the changes and be grateful for the new opportunities and time you have. Even though some things about you will change and you might have to adapt your lifestyle as you age as well, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have your life all figured out. Go at your own pace and keep working on improving yourself to have things to celebrate every time you turn a year older.
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