Fear of being old is taking the spark out of life
Dear Annie: I am a very lucky 67-year-old. I have a job I enjoy every day, a happy marriage, wonderful children and grandchildren, and my health is excellent. I also know that, life being what it is, I am likely to be dead or at least confined to an assisted living center in a decade. I’ve had a great life and am ready for death, if that is what comes next.
Residing in an assisted living center is what scares me. Being confined to a small space with other old people, watching television or playing cards all day while hoping for a visitor who sees it as a chore to visit me and waiting for the next meal that is the same as last week’s meal — it all seems so dreary. How do people prepare themselves for this? Sure, I can stay focused on what I do and enjoy today. But things won’t be the same 10 years from now. How do I prepare for that?
Already, I am seen differently because of my age, and that has caused me to start thinking differently. I’ve always been interested in politics and public policy. I’ve always been active in our community. I’ve served on a number of local nonprofit boards. I’ve helped with some big projects that will benefit people for a long time.
Now, however, when I go to a community meeting, even though I am careful not to talk too much, I can tell that I am regarded as that old guy who is fading away. And in truth, I understand. I was once one of those young fired-up community leaders who was always thinking about what could be done to make things better for the next generation. Now that I won’t be around long enough to see that new park built or that new library opened or what will happen if that the zoning is changed or a new road is built, I can’t blame the younger people who see me as not so relevant. And that, in turn, has caused me to think less and to care less about what things will be like 25 years from now.
I expect this is all just natural and inevitable, but it makes me sad. How do people best prepare and handle this phase of life? — Fearing the Future As an Old Man
Dear Old Man: You are as young as you feel. Don’t let your worries of the future cause you to think that somehow as you age you are not as useful. The young fired-up community members offer some great things at the meetings, I’m sure. But you, with your wisdom and experience, can offer a whole new perspective — one that you could not have offered when you were young. Try to look at this phase as the best phase of your life. You made it: healthy marriage, wonderful children and grandchildren and excellent health. Now is your time to sit back, enjoy all of your accomplishments and offer others your wisdom so that they, too, might have such a fulfilling life. Congratulations!
You know that life is always changing. Even the young are growing older each day. The key is to enjoy each moment that we have and find gratitude and joy in every phase of life. Don’t rule out seeing a therapist to discuss your future. It could be much brighter than the bleak scenario you have painted for yourself in 10 years.
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“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.