I had drafted an article for today about the greatest fears that we, as older adults, experience. I realized I had posted a similar article nearly a year ago so I thought I would re-visit that article today. Here is a substantially edited and reordered version of that article.
What are the greatest fears, concerns and wants of seniors as we age? Is it the fear of dying? I don’t think so. Here are the Top Four most common fears, other than financial fears, that most seniors seem to experience.
Number 4: Leaving Things Undone. Perhaps we do fear dying “with our song still in us”. Someone once said that you don’t die regretting the things you did, you die regretting the things you didn’t do. That’s probably true for many of us. All too often, we simply never get to the things we say we want to do. We promise ourselves that we will do this thing, or these things before we die, but time marches on and we never do them.
Perhaps that’s where the concept of The Bucket List comes from. A Bucket List is a list of things that a person wants to do before they die – things like traveling around the world, or jumping out of an airplane, or learning to paint. These are dreams that we may have had as a youth that we let pass us by as we aged; things that we just never got around to doing. These things can be large or small, sensible or non-sensible. It doesn’t matter. They are simply things that we always wanted to do or be, that we simply never took the time to make happen. Now we use age as an excuse for not doing those things that we want to do but don’t think we can. A bucket list can give purpose to our lives and living with a purpose is a characteristic of longevity.
Number 3: Fear of Falling. This is one of the major fears for all seniors. It is the fear of falling DOWN on a floor or a street, or even down a flight of stairs. The fear is of hurting yourself, breaking a hip or other bone, or of not being able to get back up to your feet. This is a legitimate challenge because as we age, our bones tend to get brittle and break more easily.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: One-third of Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 14 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Falls result in more than 2.4 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 772,000 hospitalizations and more than 21,700 deaths. In 2012, the total cost of fall injuries was over $36 billion. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $59.6 billion by 2020. That’s scary.
Let’s face it, if you “slip or trip”, which is the reason for most falls, gravity is going to take over and you are going to go – DOWN. Yes, down. That’s toward the floor or street. It will probably hurt, even if you catch yourself. If you go down all the way without somehow catching yourself, you are likely to seriously injure yourself, or at least break a bone. But there are ways to protect yourself. One answer, of course, is to build your leg and core strength, do balance exercises, learn some techniques to catch yourself before you get too far down, and if you can’t stop yourself on the way down, at least learn ways to protect yourself and minimize the damage when you hit.
Number 2. Long, Lingering Illness. Most seniors want to live right up until they die, and want to be able to do what they want to do until they die. But so many seniors are susceptible to chronic illnesses that incapacitate them and, like loss of mobility or functionality, increase reliance on others. No one wants this to happen. That’s scary, too.
The best way to avoid long, debilitating illness is to take care of yourself in the early stages of aging. It’s never too late to improve your physical condition. But it’s best when you start early, as you begin to move into “seniorhood”, rather than having to catch up later. We all understand the importance of exercise and eating for health and energy, but too many of us just won’t do it for one reason or another. Is inertia on of those reasons? Is it laziness, or is it just don’t realize how important it is to fend off illness.
Number 1 Fear that Most Older Adults Experience. Loss of Mobility/Functionality, and Loss of Independence: Functionality and mobility go hand in hand. As you age, you still want to be able to do the things you want to do and go the places you want to go. Seniors, in general, dread the idea of loss of mobility. Functionality means being able to do the things we need to be able to do. Mobility means being able to move from point A to point B, whether it is getting across the room, or driving to the store for groceries. The result is a loss of independence. The idea of needing help to perform basic tasks is terrifying to most seniors. The loss of the use of a car, not being able to go to the store, let alone not being able to put the groceries away when you get home is an unnecessary tragedy. Dependence on someone else, particularly having to rely on your own kids, is terrifying.
Of course you could move into an assisted care facility where someone is there to look after you and your needs. That’s never a pleasant choice.
Summary: We all have fears. We see others who bear the negative results of aging without taking care of themselves. There is a way to put off the aging process and even, in some cases, seem to reverse it. You can regain some of your mobility and functionality as well as stave off long, lingering, chronic illness. Is this true in every case? Of course not.
We have the ability to do something about it, and we can start now. It’s never too late. The evidence is there to support the ability to reverse, or at least stop the debilitating effects of aging. Take care of yourself as you get older and you should live a long, happy and healthy life.
You already know the solution. Go do it.
Thanks for reading.