Do you have a fear of aging?
We all do, to some extent. Just take a look at what the media and pop culture promote on a daily basis – it seeps with promotions straight from the fountain of youth.
Take it a step further — do you also worry about what will happen when you die?
Unfortunately, many people, especially older adults, feel scared and anxious about aging and death.
As you age, some fears dissipate yet fears about being over-the-hill can creep into your daily life.
Fear of not living up to expectations, fear of taking risks, fear of retirement, and a fear of the future.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling because it means you are no longer in control.
The fear of getting older is something that everyone faces at some point in their life, but what we don’t realize is how much power this fear really holds over us and how it can affect every aspect of our lives if left unchecked.
Which is exactly why we’ll go over the possible reasons behind fears of aging and death, and provide some tips on how to overcome them.
Why You’re Afraid of Getting Older
For some, it’s a fear of the physical changes that come with aging. For others, it’s the fear of losing their independence and becoming a burden on their loved ones.
And for many, it’s the fear of death itself.
No matter what form your fear takes, it can be a debilitating force in your life. It can make you worry about things that are far into the future and prevent you from enjoying the present moment.
But according to Pew Research, the expectations of younger and middle-aged adults don’t match the reality of older adults:
The fear of getting older stems from the aging myths and negative attitudes towards older adults by society at large.
Sadly, society sees old age as something undesirable and something to be afraid of. And not only could this not be further from the truth, but it’s also a form of ageism — social discrimination against older people.
As inspiring 92-year-old AnnaBelle Marshall put it:
“I am convinced that we all need to get over the idea that age is a disease.”
People worry about losing their looks, their health, and their independence. But there’s no need to fear aging. It’s a natural process that happens to everyone. And it can be a beautiful time of life if you’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for it.
But what about the fear of death?
Why You’re Afraid of Death
Death is the great unknown, and fear of the unknown is a powerful emotion. We don’t know what happens after we die, so it’s natural to be afraid of something we can’t understand.
We also fear death because it represents the end of our life as we know it. We’re afraid of all the things we’ll never get to do, see, or experience. Death is final, and that can be scary.
For some people, the fear of aging is closely linked to the fear of death. They may feel like they’re running out of time and they’ll never accomplish everything they want to in life.
And when older adults were asked about death anxieties, they had a lot to share:
Among the top fears about death are:
- Worries that death deprives you of someone near and dear to you
- Fears about getting cancer
- Fears of getting a serious disease
While it’s extremely challenging to not be afraid of it, death is a natural part of life and simply inevitable. Surrendering to this idea and finding your own spiritual path to make peace with this is hugely important.
Just remember it’s about how you live your life, and not when you die, that matters. Instead of focusing on your fears, focus on living your life to the fullest and enjoying every moment without having to look back with any regret.
To make the most of your time and to help you embrace the journey ahead, read on for six tips on how to overcome the fear of aging and death.
How to Get Over Fear of Aging and Death
#1 Knowledge is Power
First, you can educate yourself about what to expect as you age. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about getting older, so it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Just because you’re getting older, doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be frail, sick, and unable to enjoy life.
What’s more, it’s important to remember that everyone ages differently. If someone you know is experiencing health problems or declining mental faculties, that doesn’t mean it’ll happen to you. Everyone ages at their own pace, so don’t compare yourself to others.
Not to mention, there’s increasing research uncovering the deep impact of trauma, stress, lifestyle, and mental state on the way that you heal and age — regardless of your family history and genetic makeup.
For instance, one study has proven that the more negative your perceptions of aging are, the more likely it is you’ll experience death and retirement anxiety. And that anxiety releases stress hormones, like cortizone, which further prevent you from healing.
So it’s worth educating yourself about aging and dying. Lifelong knowledge is power and understanding the aging process and what to expect can help you come to terms with your fear.
#2 Talk About It
As you age, it’s only natural that you start to think more about your mortality. For some, this can be a difficult thing to come to terms with. But it’s important to remember that everyone feels this way at some point in their lives.
Which is why we advise you to talk about your fears with someone you trust. This can help you gain a better understanding of what’s specifically causing your fear and how to deal with it. Simply put, verbalizing your emotions lowers their intensity. A study revealed that simply labeling your emotions as “fear” or “anger” can help you cope.
Also, when you keep your fear to yourself, it can seem larger and more daunting. But when you talk about it with someone else, it can help you to put things in perspective. And just getting them out in the open can help you feel better.
#3 Focus on the Present
One of the best ways to combat your fear of aging and death is to live in the present moment and reap the benefits of mindfulness. When you’re focused on what’s happening right now, it’s difficult to worry about things that haven’t happened yet.
Plus, this practice of being totally present and mindful completely widens your sense of peace, which in and of itself eases fears around death.
Try to take notice of the small details in your life and savor the good moments. This can help you appreciate your life more and make the most of the time you have. Research shows that mindful meditation serves as an excellent buffer against death anxiety.
It’s also important to stay active and engaged as you age. When you’re in an awakened conscious state (aka mindful of the present moment), you’re more likely to do things that make you feel good – whether it’s spending time with friends, pursuing a hobby, or volunteering in retirement – this can all help you feel youthful and alive.
#4 Practice Gratitude
Gratitude has been shown to be one of the most powerful emotions you can feel. It has the ability to shift your perspectives and make you feel more positive about your life.
In one study, the participants were told to focus on grateful events, hassles, or other important events (control) in life. The results showed that gratitude significantly lessens death anxiety due to a sense that life has been well-lived:
Whether you keep a gratitude journal or express it to others, when you’re grateful for what you have, it’s easier to let go of fears and anxieties. So take some time each day to express gratitude, and you will start to see a positive change in your life and in your attitudes towards aging and death.
You’ll shift your focus from fear to appreciation, and that is a very powerful thing.
#5 Use It as Motivation
The fear of aging and death can actually be used as motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you’re afraid of death, then use that fear to live a life that is as healthy as possible. Eat right, exercise, and take care of your body and mind.
And you can use it as motivation to make every moment count. It can serve as a reminder to live your life to the fullest and appreciate all that you have. Research shows that being aware of your mortality and thinking about death could promote positive changes in your life.
Just focus on living your life with purpose and meaning, and cherishing the time you have with your loved ones. These are the things that will truly matter in the end.
#6 Create a Legacy
Leaving a legacy is one of the best ways to get over your fear of aging and death. It gives you something to live for and look forward to. And when you have a legacy, you’re not just living for yourself — you’re living for future generations.
Your life and essence ripple beyond your own physical years as a living human. As Banksy said:
“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
As for choosing the kind of legacy you want to leave, do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Creating your legacy can be as simple as leaving behind a positive impact on the world. It doesn’t have to be something big or grandiose. Just follow your passions and purpose, pay attention to that internal spark that naturally energizes you, and do your best to make a difference. It’s up to you to decide what you want your legacy to be.
If you’re afraid of getting old and never accomplishing your dreams, then use that fear to push yourself to achieve those dreams. Go after your goals with everything you’ve got and don’t let anything stop you.
No matter what you do, though, think of it as symbolic immortality — your legacy will live on long after you’re gone. And that is something to be proud of.
Aging Without Fear of Death
Fear of aging and fear of death are natural emotions.
But you can take steps now to find more peace and overcome this fear:
- #1 Knowledge is Power — you fear the unknown, so learn as much as you can
- #2 Talk About It — diminish your fears by openly talking about them with loved ones
- #3 Focus on the Present — don’t dwell on what may or may not happen in the future
- #4 Practice Gratitude — focus on what’s good in your life now
- #5 Use It as Motivation — live your ideal retirement lifestyle
- #6 Create a Legacy — live on after you’re physically gone through your legacy
The main takeaway is that while aging and death are inevitable, there’s no need to let this fear influence the present moment — what’s important is how you live your life now.
(By the way, if you want help living your best retirement life and unlocking more passion and purpose, we’ve got you covered. Just schedule a Free Breakthrough Session here. It’s truly our mission to help older adults make the most of today.)