Getting older is something which terrifies almost everybody, except, it seems, those who have actually experienced it.

Here are some things to remember to help you get over your fear of getting older.

1. As you get older, you become less anxious and more relaxed.

One thing I’ve noticed in my own parents, is that now they are in their 60s, they seem happier than ever both as individuals, and as a couple.

I also notice that my best friend’s mother and her sister, who are both in their 60s, seem to be enjoying a second adolescence. They’re out and about having fun more than me or my friend, and, also, incidentally, seem to spend a lot less time fretting over getting older than we do.

I wondered if this was something that we could observe more generally in people of such an age, and what might be the cause of it.

On the day of writing this piece, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s death at 82 years of age was announced. I watched a wonderful collage of the legendary artist in interview. One quote stood out particularly. He said:

“I read in the International Herald Tribune that, as you grow older, the brain cells connected with anxiety begin to die. You start feeling a lot better. It has nothing to do with virtue or meditation, or any kind of spiritual achievement. You just start feeling better.”

On further investigation of this claim, it turns out that he was right. Neurological changes do indeed occur in the locus coeruleus, an area of the brain connected with fear and anxiety. Between the ages of 40 and 60, this area begins to deteriorate sharply.

This gives rise to what Steeve Roose, a psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute, described as greater self-assurance and a softening of emotions such as anger and worry.

As most of our experiences of mental suffering are dictated largely by what is going on inside our brains, rather than by an objective perception of reality. This fact alone should be enough to comfort those of you who fear you won’t be able to cope with the ageing process.

2. It seems that life starts anew at 60.

Another thing I’ve noticed, observing older people I know, is that they seem to undergo a transformation wherein they find a new lease of life by pursuing some new interest or hobby.

My own mother discovered art in her 60s, never having picked up a paintbrush in her life before. She’s now thoroughly art-mad and is even studying a degree in it. She spends all her time in the studio, has a whole bunch of new friends who share her interests, and is frankly more joyful and enthusiastic than I’ve ever known her before.

Having many wonderful friends of over 60 on Facebook, I notice the same thing! They all seem so busy and engrossed in what they’re doing.

I think the key is perhaps that they lose focus on themselves. Their focus seems to shift outwards, with no ego attachments to what they’re doing – they just take pure pleasure in their hobbies and pastimes for the sake of the pastime itself. This pleasure in work for the work’s sake is surely something to be envied, not feared.

3. Romance isn’t dead after 60.

I suppose what many people, particularly women, fear most about getting older is the idea that they’ll no longer have a shot at romance.

This seems to be a complete misconception from what I see of the over-sixties around me. My parents, to use an example of a married couple, spend more time than ever together and, indeed, take more pleasure in being together than ever before.

But it’s not just that – my friend’s mother, widowed some time ago, started going out with a man younger than I am, and who is thoroughly devoted to her. Having gotten married and had children young, all the romance that was absent from her life so many years has found her now.

On top of this, she has no stress or anxiety about where this relationship is headed, she’s just enjoying the moments thoroughly, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. This is not to mention all the single men of her own age who constantly flirt with her!

No group of people seems to have benefited more from the emergence of social networking via the internet than the over-sixties. On a social network, we’re able to share our thoughts, feelings, and interests with people we don’t know. Consequently, older people, being less interested in the superficial things that concern younger people, are much more likely to find a kindred spirit nowadays than ever before.

Indeed, with their wonderful relaxed and open attitude to socializing online, they seem far more likely to find a soulmate than their younger counterparts!

The older you get, the more you realize

There is so much more I could say on this topic, but I simply haven’t got the space. I hope, at any rate, that considering some of these beautiful aspects of getting older has helped comfort those of you who fear the passage of time.

What other reasons can you think of not to be anxious about getting older? Share them and help others get over this irrational fear.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jennifer


  2. Stephen James

    I disagree about a older person having a relationship with a much younger person.
    1. It is hard work. It is like looking after a child. When you are old it is a lot of hard exhausting work. It is great to be around the children, but they do wear you down much faster. This is normal and right as when older we need more rest and life should be easier.
    2.Relationships are best when they build over a long time. It is like with siblings, who in older age look back over there past together with such warmth pride and love.
    3.It can be tragic in a sense because you know you will die and your partner still has a whole life ahead and you may feel you have cheated them out of some of that precious time. Your partner may also come to feel this way.
    4. There is a greater chance of tension as you will be more jealous than you would be with someone your own age. We often see this with older men with young women. That is not healthy or in any way good for the older person.
    I believe old age should be cherished. It is a time to take it easy, look at life in a different way, from a prospective of where it is going and where you have been, and appreciating you will not be there to help it along one day. It is a time for meditating on life. That is what I believe old age should be about. This is best done with others your own age.
    I am not saying we should not be around the young. Only that we should see them differently. They are what we use to be. If we try to be like them, full of such energy as they have, it can only do us physical harm. I believe too many people die simply because of the tensions they build up trying to keep up with they way they were when young. They cannot let go of their youth and eventually it kills them.

    1. Caroline

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks so much for your comment. The point that you make is an excellent one. I didn’t mean to suggest that people in their sixties go looking for romance with people who are much younger, I simply meant to bring it up as an example of one of the many things that happen in individual lives that show that our assumptions about getting older, and about the inevitability of ending up a certain way are false. The example I gave is a real-life example from a woman I know well. I didn’t make it up, and the lady in question is perfectly relaxed in this situation, or seemingly so. However, there’s no doubt that the points that you bring up are entirely valid and certainly worth considering if faced with such a situation.

  3. PatC

    Fascinating article. I’ve been struggling with anxiety off an on during most of my life and being 60, I hope this happens soon.

    “I read in the International Herald Tribune that, as you grow older, the brain cells connected with anxiety begin to die. You start feeling a lot better. It has nothing to do with virtue or meditation, or any kind of spiritual achievement. You just start feeling better.”

  4. Gloria

    These psychological and social benefits of getting older are nice, but I, at 63, mostly fear losing my physical abilities. I am seeing people at my age losing mobility and hearing and developing serious diseases. Also, coping with your contemporaries’ deaths is very hard. The people that you grew up with suddenly start to disappear.

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