The Top 11 Biggest Fears Seniors Have as They Get Old
No one can escape the natural process of growing old. However, the fears that go hand in hand with getting old are common among people around the world regardless of their gender, culture, professional background, or social status.
For most people, adjustment to aging is a bumpy ride because there is usually a gap between what you thought growing old would look like and how it actually is. It may be tough to adjust to loses and changes that are inevitable as we are growing older. Therefore, aging can be overwhelming for seniors, their children, and other family members too.
Caring for elderly parents can become an issue if they show a resistance to change, believing that their daily routine should remain the same and that they don’t need your help.
If you are a senior, on the other hand, you may find it difficult to adapt to changes in your life – you don’t want to give up driving and going out to get your groceries, for example. You may reject home care and in-home care assistance or refuse to move into an assisted-care facility.
The impaired health, the fear of loneliness, and the worry that you will run out of money can add to stress and anxiety you already experience.
Understanding your fears is the first step in overcoming them. So, here is the list of the top 11 most significant fears seniors have as you get old.
Surveys show that loneliness is one of the biggest fears people have as they grow older. We become more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness as we age. A significant number of people feel lonely and cut off from social circles, particularly those over the age of 75, studies show.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 12 million Americans over age 65 (26 percent) lived alone in 2014. Many of them go for a month or longer without speaking to a family member, friend, or neighbor.
Various reasons can cause you to become socially isolated. For example, you may outlive your spouse and friends, struggle after leaving the workplace, or suffer a disability or illness.
Whatever the cause, you may start feeling lonely and isolated, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Also, mental illness and loneliness stigma may prevent you from asking for support, which only makes things worse.
However, loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of their age. A recent survey showed that around 47 percent of young people age 19 to 24 feel incredibly lonely and isolated. Connecting with others can help you feel included and appreciated again. So, here are some ways to manage your loneliness.
- Keep in touch by phone.
- Use the Internet to stay connected.
- Socialize regularly.
- Take part in activities in your community.
- Practice mindfulness meditation or other relaxation techniques.
- Connect with nature.
- Keep a journal.
2. Declining Health
Seeing that your physical or/and mental health condition is deteriorating may be upsetting. Declining health may prevent you from doing things you enjoy or interfere with your day-to-day habits and activities. Declining health may limit or cause a loss of independence, which most people find disturbing.
You may require home health care or some type of help with everyday activities, as taking care of yourself may become difficult due to illness or injury.
You need to understand that you are not isolated from your experience. According to The Institute of Aging, more than 90 percent of the elderly experience one or more health conditions that prevent them from leading their lives the way they are used to. Check local resources and inquire if you qualify for home health care or home care.
3. Not Being Able to Age In Place
Most seniors want to age at home and within familiar surroundings. This is, unfortunately, not always possible. For most of us, home is not merely the space we live in. Home is a familiar place, full of memories, where we feel safe and sheltered.
Not being able to age in place is a source of great stress for many seniors. Talk to your children, other family members, or caregivers about your fears and worries. This may help alleviate negative feelings and ease anxiety. Examine possible options such as hiring in-home help, live-in companion, moving in with your kids, downsizing, or retirement communities.
Explore senior housing or assisted living communities close to home and take the tour of those you like best. Knowing about different options will give you peace of mind and help alleviate stress.
4. Loss of Independence
Every person wants to maintain their independence for as long as possible. For someone who has lived on their own terms for most of their lives, relying on others for meeting basic needs may be terrifying.
Nevertheless, as cognitive abilities and physical health deteriorate, a person may start needing help with everyday activities, which often causes loss of independence.
5. Death of a Spouse
Loss of a loved one is stressful. Grief is a natural response to losing somebody very important to us. In addition to the loss of a person and a relationship, the passing of a spouse is a reminder of a person’s own mortality and this is a difficult topic to think about.
While every person grieves differently, there are certain phases of grieving that we all go through on our path of healing. These stages usually include shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. You might experience them in any order or intensity. However, it is important is to take your time to grieve and allow yourself to do it in your way.
6. Fear of Getting Injured
Most seniors want to age at home. However, living alone comes with its risks. A key to living alone is to avoid injuries and stay safe. To minimize the hazards in your home and avoid injuries, make sure to keep your rooms bright and clean. Remove the clutter and furniture that may cause falls and injuries. Make sure the rooms and bathrooms throughout your house are easily accessible. Consider moving downstairs and remodeling the bathroom to adapt it to your needs. Install the railings and grab bars for additional stability and safety. Ensure that your floors are not slippery.
If needed, install an electric stairlift and remodel the kitchen to make it safer and easily accessible.
7. Inability to Manage Day-to-Day Living
The inability to take care of oneself is one of the major concerns as people age. The inability to perform usual activities of daily living (ADL) such as eating, bathing, or dressing severely affects the person’s mood and a sense of dignity. You must continue to do as much as possible, as this will help you maintain physical and mental activity.
There are home care aides that can help you specifically with ADLs, such as Visiting Angels, the privately-owned network of home care agencies. These agencies provide non-medical home care services for seniors nationwide. Visiting Angels offer services that include personal care, home care, companion care, and eldercare.
These services are covered by Medicare. However, for Medicare to cover Visiting Angel services, a doctor must certify that you have been in a hospital for at least 3 consecutive days and that you require therapy.
8. Financial Issues
There is always a fear of not having enough sources to support yourself and provide for adequate medical care as you grow older, especially if you have low savings for retirement. You may fear that you will run short of money and become a burden for your children. However, an open discussion about handling your funds with your children (especially if they are your caregivers) should alleviate stress and make you feel more at ease around this topic. Make a detailed budget together and ensure to cover your basic expenses such as food, housing, and utilities.
9. Not Being Mobile as Before
Giving up driving or leaving home daily is another attack on the aging person’s independence, self-esteem, and dignity. You may feel frustrated with the fact that you have to depend on others to go to a grocery store, appointments, pharmacy, or the church. Or you may be simply upset by the fact that you cannot come and go as you like.
However, if it is no longer safe for you to drive, you should make sure that you have alternative transportation such as relying on family members to give you a ride or a shuttle for seniors in your community.
10. Security Concerns
If you live alone, security may be one of the biggest concerns. Consider installing an alarm system that will give you peace of mind regarding your safety and allow you to get help in case you need it quickly. Always ensure that you lock doors and windows to prevent break-ins and keep your home safe.
11. Having Strangers Around Your Home
Most people prefer having familiar people as caregivers. It may be extremely uncomfortable to rely on a stranger to provide care.
When selecting a home care agency, inquire about their services and costs. Also, ask if they have a license to practice and whether they offer a bill of rights that describes the rights and responsibilities of both parties involved. Find out how the caregivers are hired and trained and there is a list of references for the agency’s caregivers.
If possible, have your child or another family member present until you get comfortable around another caregiver.
Don’t shy away from expressing your concerns and needs openly, because the aides are there to assist you and make your daily living more comfortable.