Growing old is something which has been on my mind as of late. I have always been one of the youngest in my family, but I am now at university and I am legally an adult which is something that has taken me somewhat by surprise and I would like to ask someone when this happened!
But this means that the older generations of my family are also growing older (and wiser) and so sadly family numbers are slowly depleting.
I assume I am like a lot of people when I say that the prospect of aging isn’t something which I am excited about.
I have never liked the prospect of growing up or growing old. When I was three years old I remember telling my Dad that I wanted to stay three for ever, and when I turned ten I remember being sad because my age would never be single figures again. Now that I am older however I have begun to just accept the fact that growing old is one of the only things in life you can guarantee on happening to everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from. Ironically, as I have grown up I have become less fearful of becoming older. However, is that only because I am supposedly in “the best years of my life” and I am not yet at the age in which body parts and functions usually go down hill?
Perhaps as I mature I will begin to fear old age again? Who knows.
But why do so many people fear old age? Fear of old age is definately something which is embedded into the culture in which I live, but I couldn’t tell you why I was so fearful of growing up or growing old at such a young age!
Which this leads me to the question – is this fear innate or culturally constructed?
It wouldn’t be nonsensical for gerascophobia (fear of growing old) to be an innate fear. In evolutionary terms old age equates to loss of fertility and the ability to fight, as well as the ability to look after one’s self which would ultimately lead to death.
On the other hand, if this were true I would think the whole human race to be absolutely ridiculous. Worrying about an inevitable truth of life seems like a complete waste of time, surely an innate phobia of a venimous spider or tiger would be more useful.
If this was the case it would mean that gerascophobia is a culturally constructed phenomenon, but I believe that having the right attitude can completely reverse a situation around. Old age needn’t be something to be sombre about, instead it should be seen as a privilege.
Growing old is a privilege and I think we forget that ages that were once considered ancient are now expected. There are still countries where the life expectancy is 45 (Sierra Leone), whereas for us living in wealthier countries this is barley considered “middle aged”.
I would hope that by the time that I am considered old (if I ever get there) that this negative attitude toward the elderly has changed. I would hate to be thought of as useless and ‘in the way’ (I know many people do not feel this way toward their own parents/grandparents/random old people in the street – I am targeting the people who do). I would much rather be respected and valued, and I am sure you feel the same.
So why not start being a role model for the generations behind you? Teach them how to look after and admire the elderly so they do the same and so their grandchildren so the same as well.
Perhaps if this happens people will no longer fear growing old and instead look forward to old age as a time in their lives when they can appreciate the life they have lived and do what they want (even though you should have been doing that the whole way along).