Growing older and wiser may be the natural state of being, but this doesn’t stop humanity’s constant search for the fountain of youth. The fear of aging drives a huge industry that aims to delay sagging, wrinkles and blemishes by employing strategies such as anti-aging creams, extreme diets or exercise routines and plastic surgery.
But these measures only combat the outward signs of aging and the real symptoms of aging are health related. Disease, illness and an overall deterioration of the body and mind are what really affects people who are afraid of getting older. Constantly thinking about these effects, as well as the fact that age comes with dependence on others, is unhealthy and can prevent both men and women from living life to the fullest in their younger years.
Extreme fear of the aging process is called Gerascophobia. Like most phobias, in these extreme cases, the fear is constant, persistent and driven by irrational thoughts and behaviors to the point where normal, daily function is inhibited.
Due to the increased availability of improved healthcare and medical treatment across the globe, more people are living longer. This increased life expectancy results in more people being afraid of aging and an increased incidence of Gerascophobia, creating the need to look for new ways to deal with the psychological impact, and not just the health concerns and outward signs of aging.
Aging fears are also driven by the media and society where greater value is placed on the way people look than their role and function within society. It is a sad fact that modern social structures treat the elderly with disdain and see them as a burden rather than an invaluable resource of experience and knowledge.
Rapid technological advances is another setback for the elderly where they struggle to keep up with new innovations and, as a result, are viewed as being backward and lacking in intelligence. This further drives the fear of growing old and being ostracized by the community.
Expectation is another factor that fuels the fear of aging. The way that others expect the elderly to act and behave and the way that an individual feels they are expected to behave as they grow older, leads to a loss of self. People spend their formative years creating who they are, their youth finding who they are, their middle age worrying who they will become and their older years losing who they are.
But this does not need to be the case. The world doesn’t need to become a lonelier, more frightening place to live in as people grow older. In fact ,the diverse opposite is true where new opportunities and possibilities become available for people to embrace.
However, embracing life begins with embracing the self. Living in the moment and not worrying about the future is essential in combating aging fears by not becoming consumed with the process while young, obsessed with staying younger while growing old and being true to who they are in the later years.