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Get Over the Fear of Growing Old
Every day is an opportunity, not a death sentence.
Growing older is a privilege that has been denied to many.
I recently gave a speech at the inaugural Mission of Excellence Summit, and in it, I addressed the fact that at six years old, I saw my mother wheeled past me under a white sheet.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, she’d taken her life that night.
A lot has happened in my life since February 17th, 1993, and yet nothing has changed me so much as my awareness of death and, ultimately, an ever-present awareness of the time we have and the time we aren’t guaranteed.
Growing old is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept.
Fears of declining health, loneliness, relevance, attraction, and a loss of independence, can make aging daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
By creating a better “life philosophy”, developing a positive attitude, and taking practical steps to prepare for the future, you can overcome your fear of growing old and embrace the life ahead of you.
Life Philosophies Don’t “Just Happen”
You need to work towards living and thinking differently than you currently do, and for someone who has been living in fear of death for potentially all their life, a major shift in perspective must occur.
Instead of thinking YOLO and focusing on getting all that you can from life, start thinking of how each day is an opportunity for you to experience and grow. With that appreciation for the micro-moments, you’ll also appreciate that Memento Mori has more to do with those left behind than yourself.
Every day that you’re alive, you have a chance to slow things down, appreciate what you have, and work on letting those around you know what they mean to you and that if you aren’t around someday - they’ll be able to carry on knowing full well that you’d said all that needed to be said, sparing them from the fate of not knowing.
I have an “it’s just life” approach to my days, which means I don’t take the bullshit personally, as life isn’t out to get me. I tell those I love what I feel and where I’m at; I also don’t think I will live forever.
Life is just life; shit happens, there are highs and lows, and some things go my way, and some things don’t - it is what it is, and I’m not getting shaken by any of it. I’ve known for a long time that life can disappear just like that, and because of this, I’ve chosen to accept growing older, welcoming day-by-day adventures, and not acting like living is meant to be a state of perpetual adolescence.
Growing up and growing old is how it works; the inevitability of wear and tear makes the worry about it a moot point and a waste of time.
You’re growing older; are you growing wiser?
Understanding the Aging Process
Many of the fears surrounding aging are based on myths about the process.
To help get over your fear of growing old, it’s important to understand the truth about aging. First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that everyone ages the same day but not the same way.
If you’re concerned about “getting old”, recognize that you’re worried about not being attractive, mobile, and alert. Many factors impact these aspects of your age, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Still, none will impact your rate of aging faster than excess weight and a deficiency in why.
Without a reason to live, you’ll mentally atrophy as you’ve lost the wonder in children; that curiosity for life is essential to remaining youthful.
Regarding physical capability, if you carry excess weight, you’re putting excess strain on your joints and organs.
As you get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain muscle mass, your skin may become thinner and more fragile, and your bones may become weaker, leading to a greater risk of falls and fractures. You may also experience declines in vision and hearing and changes in your memory and cognitive function. Understanding these changes can help you to prepare for them and take steps to minimize their impact on your life.
Taking care of yourself now will spare you the fate of early deterioration. There are people in their 60s who are crushing it; those people were often the ones taking care of themselves in their 30s.
Developing a Positive Attitude
It’s normal to have fears about aging, but it’s important to remember that growing old doesn’t have to be a negative experience. By developing a positive attitude, you can shift your focus from what you’re afraid of to what you can look forward to.
I’m going to be a badass grandfather; my aim is to be wiser, more cultured, more traveled, and more experienced year after year - I welcome aging.
Focus on the positive aspects of aging, such as gaining wisdom and the opportunity to reflect on your life. Acknowledge that aging is a part of life and is something to be celebrated, not feared. Spend time with people who are positive about aging, and look for ways to find joy and purpose in every day.
Taking Practical Steps to Prepare for the Future
It’s important to take practical steps to prepare for the future.
Start by talking to your doctor and other medical professionals about your health concerns. Look at the Twitter bros for guidance; they’re legit and share more truth than most doctors. Make sure you’re up to date on your screenings and tracking hormones through regular bloodwork, then take steps to maintain your health.
BLUF: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
You should also take steps to ensure that you’re financially secure. Research the benefits and services available, such as Social Security and Medicare, and create a budget and savings plan. Put that money not towards the excess consumption society promotes but rather towards investing in your health and wellness. Make sure you have an up-to-date will, and consider life insurance if you have dependents.
It’s important to stay independent and connected; your mindset is crucial to your experience with aging.
Maintain your hobbies and interests, and look for ways to stay involved in your community or join a senior center if you’re already 65+.
While it may not be easy, it’s important to remember that aging is a “choose your adventure” experience. You can be old at 46 or you can be young at 52 - you choose.
- Zachary Small
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