I’ve noticed a trend that I want to talk about, because I’ve noticed it in myself. I realize I’ve written several articles about fear. That may be because I’ve lived with it for so many years, in so many forms, and see it in others around me. I see how it stops people from being who they truly are, from doing what they truly desire to do, and even cause them to withdraw from or lash out at others, even those they love.
In this instance, the subject is aging and fear. Have you ever been behind an older driver and noticed they’re driving at 25 when the speed limit is 45? Or, have you ever been behind an older driver who rides the brake? When they were younger, these same drivers may have been “speedsters” who often drove faster than the speed limit or didn’t slow down when taking a curve. What changed? I can understand getting more responsible when you mature, but at what point do you become so cautious that it’s derived from fear?
I’m not saying all older people are this way, but I have notice a trend, even in myself, to become more afraid at, sometimes, the simplest things. What is it that causes this reaction to Life as you get older? That’s the answer or answers I’m searching for.
I imagine you could explore all kinds of avenues to try to find the answer to this. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the fact that, when you’re young, you don’t think a whole lot about dying and death. Most young people think they have all the time in the world. This causes them to have a real sense of adventure. Even if they do feel fear, often the sense of discovery, exhilaration, or just plain fun overrides any fear they may feel. So what changes as we grow older? Is it we begin to feel more mortal? As the years tick by, is there a realization that how long we live may be dependent on how we live our lives so we become super-conscious of anything that might put our lives in danger?
Once again, please don’t think I’m saying all older people are increasingly fearful. That would be no more true than all younger people are daredevils. I just have noticed there are quite a few “seniors” who would rather play it extremely safe than take a risk. And yet there are others who still feel that sense of adventure, are willing to take risks, and at least drive the speed limit. Is this another condition of the human experience that’s as individualistic as each of us?
For myself, I would have to say that perhaps my “sense of adventure” and my desire to takes risks may have been hampered by being in a fairly bad car accident in the Winter when I was about 7 and having that followed by falling out of tree onto my back when I was still in elementary school. I don’t know this for sure, but, knowing these are our formative years, the possibility does exist complicated by other factors of my life at that time. Are these seeds, planted so long ago, that are beginning to really sprout and grow now making me more cautious and less adventurous than I was in my youth? I can’t say I’m sure, but it does give me pause to ask whether there’s anything I can or should do about it?
At 71, there’s no doubt that I have lived over half of my life, even if I would live to be over 100. I don’t think I have the Methuselah gene so I have more years behind me than I have in front of me. What effect might this have on most people? For me, it’s both scary and mysterious. I don’t remember non-corporeal life and, quite frankly, even with all its trials and tribulations, I’ve grown fond of life on this Earth plane. It makes me wonder how other older people feel about it or if they even think of it at all.
I used the example of driving because it’s the most noticeable to other people, but the fact is we older people can become so cautious, so afraid, that we begin to eliminate some of the fun things from our lives like dancing or taking walks/hiking. It’s safer just to sit…no chance of getting hurt. Is that really living though? Does this attitude cause us to begin to just exist rather than live our lives? Granted, not everyone is meant to jump out of an airplane at 90 like late President George H. W. Bush. Hell, I wouldn’t have done it at 25! Still, does this growing fear cause us to eliminate the things we did enjoy doing when we were younger?
It’s been said that “growing old isn’t for sissies.” I feel that’s really true. As a person ages, they must find the courage to not withdraw from life and the things they’ve enjoyed doing. I’ve said age is just a number. If I really believe that then I need to find the courage to continue to live my life, to enjoy people, places, and things that bring me joy. If there is fear, I need to feel it and do what I want any way. Otherwise, I have to ask myself, “Why am I still here?” The answer to that could open the door to a whole other fear.
I may never totally understand the psychology behind aging and fear. At least I am now very aware of it. What I now do with that information is totally up to me. I hope you never lose your sense of adventure and I hope you always look forward to what fun and discovery each day may bring no matter how old you get.