The word Gerascophobia is derived from Greek ‘tha geraso’ which is a phrase that means ‘I am getting old’ and phobos meaning dread or deep fear.
To an extent, most of us are afraid of growing old. No one wants to lose their youthfulness, develop wrinkles and face other health problems that are inevitable with age. Right since the dawn of mankind, humans have been searching for the mythical “fountain of youth”. The tales and exploits of Spanish and American explorers in search of the waters of this fountain are quite well known.
In extreme cases of Gerascophobia the sufferer experiences persistent, irrational and constant fear of getting old. This fear can lead to several consequences including interference with social and personal life, lost job opportunities and almost every other daily aspect. Often, the phobic realizes that the fear is unwarranted but s/he is completely powerless over it.
Causes of Gerascophobia
Why does one fear aging? Often, to ‘normal’ people, it may seem quite odd that one can fear such a natural phenomenon. However, the fear of getting old phobia actually tends to have deeper roots.
Most common underlying factor behind such a fear is anxiety. By nature, Gerascophobic individuals are anxious or high strung. They tend to have certain underlying health issues, which may or may not include hormonal imbalances, adrenal insufficiency, thyroid related problems and so on.
In the United States, hundreds of thousands of elderly people live alone. The fear of getting old, and being unable to care for self or falling down and not being able to get up or call out for help etc can terrify the phobic..
Getting old also means retirement, death of near and dear ones etc. The thought of losing a spouse, losing one’s income, not being able to support self or loved ones financially are depressing thoughts that may lead to the phobia.
Gerascophobia can also be attributed to firsthand or secondhand negative experiences related to aging. The phobic might have seen the difficulties faced after getting old. Possibly, his parent might have developed debilitating conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AMD or other age related degeneration. They even might have been sent to a retirement home or required full time assistance. Growing old thus translates to becoming dependent on others, losing one’s self esteem and “being weak”. All these factors play heavily on the phobic’s mind.
Symptoms of the fear of getting old phobia
Different people have different reactions to the fear of getting old phobia. Some are so overwhelmed by the thought of aging that it leads to a full blown anxiety/panic attack with following symptoms:
- Feeling dizzy, fainting
- Shaking, shivering, developing chills
- Thoughts of death or dying,
- Palpitations and rapid breathing
- Inability to think or express oneself clearly- feeling disconnected with reality
- Feeling total loss of control- feeling as if one is going mad.
Naturally, all these symptoms can greatly affect one’s day-to-day life and cause one to become completely withdrawn and depressed. Excessive worrying also leads to stress which can cause health problems like high blood pressure or heart disease. Naturallt, the phobia affects one’s personal and professional lives.
Treatment for the phobia
It is completely possible to get over Gerascophobia using a combination of self help techniques and medical intervention. However, the cure for this phobia mainly depends on how the phobic accepts aging as a natural part of life.
Few of the recommended therapies for overcoming the fear of getting old include:
Exposure therapy– This is closely related to CBT or cognitive behavior therapy. It includes 5 steps-Evaluation, Feedback, Developing fear hierarchy, Exposure and Building upon the rationalization steps. CBT or Exposure therapists help the patient rethink his thoughts and responses about getting old in order to control them better. Exposure may also include, in varying degrees, stimuli that involve seeing pictures or videos about old age and then using the flooding technique to overcome the Gerascophobia once and for all.
Energy Psychology or the Emotional Freedom Technique- This is a form of acupuncture therapy without needles. It helps get to the bottom of the phobia by removing negative association with getting old.
Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy are two other techniques of overcoming Gerascophobia once and for all.
The phobic’s loved ones should also support the individual as much as possible. Self help techniques like yoga, meditation, positive visualization along with modern medications can also help overcome the fear to a great extent. Many modern techniques and remedies are similar to the mythical fountain of youth; they are proven to help retain one’s beauty and health longer. That being said; it is essential to accept aging as a natural process and consider life as a gift. By aging gracefully, living for others and finding one’s passions in the form of good books, drama, art etc one can look at things in a positive manner and overcome the fear of getting old.
Maria Walendziak says
I don’t understand why people in the United States specifically have such a paralyzing fear of getting old. I used to have the same fear, but after living through a deadly pandemic, my views have changed. I feel compassion for those one million souls who lost their lives and the families they left behind. No one has any right to feel such absurd fears about aging. There are so many people with terminal illnesses who would do anything to be healthy and not terminally ill.
Americans are the only people who feel that they are near death when they retire from working. No other country has citizens feel so terrified of the aging process. If you believe in the afterlife, then there is nothing to fear. If you have done something wrong that can’t be fixed, like rape or murder, or child molesting, then you have a great deal to do on this earth before you face judgment from a higher being. If you choose to live in fear, then you made that choice.
J. C. says
No one has the right to tell anyone else that they don’t “have any right” to feel what they feel. Feelings are not “rights.” They are just there. You are not a compassionate person. Far from it.
Getting old sucks. Lots of physical and mental issues. As Bob Seeger sings I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.
Linda Brown says
I just turned 70 yesterday, and I am very depressed. I lost my looks, can’t do some things I used to do, health is going downhill. It’s horrible. I hate it.
In one week, I turned 50. My only child graduated from 8th grade and was told I’m done with menopause. I cried for weeks. Such a feeling of melancholy. I came to the realization my parents are getting older and won’t be around forever. My child is now a teenager. I’m afraid of losing my looks and my hair. As a teenager, you can’t wait to get older. As you age, all you want is to be young again.
Happy birthday! I lost my sister, who was 52. We’re all still here to read this and comment. I’m nearly 65 and have had this since I was about 7. It’s crippling every time it gets to me. My mum is 85 and as cheerful as anything! We don’t know we’re born, so maybe we don’t know when we go.
Dee Cook says
I recently turned 61. I can’t believe how fast life has passed by. So sad. Today I had to go to Urgent Care because my wrists were so swelled up. I can’t do anything. The pain is excruciating. It’s arthritis. I have always been a hard worker and in pretty good shape. It’s like one morning, I woke up and had more saggy skin, wrinkles, and pains. I feel like I just want it to be over with. I don’t want to live like this, just waiting and wondering how and when I will be put out of my misery. Why would it be so bad to go out of this world the way you want to instead of constantly worrying about it.
Melanie William's says
I feel exactly the same. I didn’t realize I was 50 in august. I really thought I was 48 and that I was going to be 49 until my mother said it. I was in denial. It caused me to have a panic attack. I’m so scared of getting old. Thankfully I don’t look my age, but I have noticed I’m slowing down a lot, and my eyesight is getting worse.
carol burr says
I know what you mean by thinking you were 48. For several years I was always 36. It was funny to others, but I understood why I was stuck on 36. I was young then, and I was so afraid of my mom and dad dying. I used to cry when I imagined what it would be like when they went to heaven. Since college, I’ve wanted to make time stand still, and I wanted to go back even farther to when my brother and sisters and I were very young. I recently lost my daughter. She was my brightest shining star, and I cry all the time. I can’t be with her now because I have to be here for my precious son. My husband died 10 years ago. Now we are only 2. I don’t understand why everything goes away. I’m afraid of being sort of helpless or real helpless and in a nursing home. I don’t have much money. I trust God to keep providing and taking care of me. In spite of all, I’ve done wrong. I don’t know why God invented time for us because time doesn’t exist with God. I count my blessings every day and am very grateful. I will see my daughter and my husband and my mom and dad again. And my pets. God bless you. xx
I’m sorry you feel this way.
I can understand. I am now 53 and was diagnosed with arthritis in my neck and lower back. I have been very depressed. It’s the idea of living my life in pain that scares me the most. Then my skin is turning dry. It is very scary! We have to accept this change. I’m not sure how, though?
I am 70 and am, officially, old already. Unfortunately, the older I get, the worse the fear becomes.
All my life, I have been proud of my vocabulary. Yet it seems to be shrinking by the day. Oh, I know one can use a thesaurus, but when there is a dirty great hole where the word used to be, you can’t always find an alternative to look up. And don’t talk about dates or even simple mathematics. They have deteriorated to the level of an 8-year-old.
The advice to learn something interesting (which I have read in many other places) does not make sense when you know how much you have forgotten already.
And yes, it is inevitable. But seeing the deterioration through the years makes a worthwhile future unlikely.
I want to cry as I read all these comments. It’s good to know I’m not alone, but I can identify with all of these feelings. I’m 39 and turning 40 in September. I am so terrified of turning 40 that I can’t even function. I’m married, but I don’t have kids. I got married at 37, and I’m scared I can’t get pregnant now. But I also don’t want to be an “old mom.” And I’m scared I’ll regret not having children. I’m sad that my husband and I missed out on “young love” even though we do have a good relationship. But he’s slightly younger than me, which doesn’t help matters. He will be 36 this year, and I’m so jealous. He’s getting frustrated with me because all I can talk about is how I don’t want to turn 40 and get older. I’m scared one day he’ll realize he should’ve married someone younger. I don’t want to lose my looks and be invisible. I don’t want to go through menopause, mammograms, osteoporosis, health problems, and I especially don’t want to die. I do look young still, but knowing that I’m not hurts like hell. I would give anything to be in my 20s again. I feel so ugly and inadequate around the 20 and 30-year-olds at my job. I can’t handle this. Every day I get closer to becoming old and frumpy, and I’ll eventually die. I’m so scared.
Sarina Lee says
I wish I had supportive words for you to help. I’m turning 49 soon, and I’m petrified. It’s been this way since I turned 35. It’s ruining my life. I’m actually wasting a lot of time living because of this. I know it’s said to concentrate on today and live it to its fullest, but the thoughts of being old just cripple me. I’m at the point where I literally don’t leave my home. I’m in therapy, but it’s not helping these raging thoughts. I grew up really fast at a very young age (14 yrs) and lost out on being a kid and enjoying youth. Because so, I feel mentally restricted. I feel it’s too late now. I also read that it creates a lot of medical issues, and I have all of them—high blood pressure, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression. The funny thing is, it all began as soon as I started worrying about aging. I was a very energetic, positive person before that. I barely look at myself in the mirror, but my hands I can’t avoid, the age marks I can’t avoid making it a constant reminder. I’m married, but I have 0 family or friends. I know it sounds ludicrous, but I literally have 0 friends. I just lost the last of my family (mother). She was only 68, which put me into an even bigger spiral. I’m not trying to freak you out any more than it seems you are. I guess I just wanted to say I feel your pain. Again I wish I had healing words, but maybe you might have some good ideas to help me out. I’m feeling so completely lost. If I don’t change something, I’m going to lose the only one I have left in my life, my husband. Unfortunately, my behavior about this is pushing him away, and then I will literally be alone, which is my biggest fear. I have a great therapist, but on the other hand, I feel that unless you’ve been there, you’re only reading a book about it and don’t have a clear understanding of the actual mania involved. It would be nice to talk to someone who is experiencing the same thing. I wouldn’t mind a pen pal, and maybe we could help each other. The medication I’m on isn’t even a band-aid anymore. My email address is leesarina1 at gmail.com. I’m so sorry you feel the way you do. I get it, and it really sucks. I just need to feel better. Thank you for your time.
Melanie William's says
I just read this, and it sounds just like me. I thought I was 48 and soon to be 49 in august until my mother said you’re 50 soon. I went mad and said no, I’m not, and it made me have a panic attack. I really thought I was 48. I feel so sick of the thought of turning 50. I have no friends either. You get so lonely. I have a partner, but it would be nice to have friends. It feels like my life is just existing. I have a terrible fear of getting old. It really bothers me, and I can’t believe reading your story is just the way I feel.
Hi, do you still need a pen pal? I’m 74. So I can tell you that you have a good 25 years before you can start worrying about this stuff. One thing that has helped me is joining things to create new friends. Friends are a must. I can tell you more.
J. C. says
I would dearly love to be 40 again – says this 40-year-old brain in a 70-year-old body!
Think of it this way: 40 is the new 30. And as you get older, that equation changes exponentially. So now, 70 is the new 50! I hope I make it to 90, which is the new 70. Then I’ll be the same age I am now. In my mind, anyway. Lol. Makes sense?
Think of it this way, also: it’s not at all uncommon to live to 80 and remain perfectly healthy nowadays, which means you will likely still be around for the number of years you’ve already been on this planet. That’s a long, long time, when you think about your past 40 years.
40 is young. Enjoy it and hold all those scary thoughts until they’re really valid, which won’t happen for you for at least another 20-30 years. And take advantage of all the medical miracles out there. I’m 70 and have never had menopause due to estrogen replacement therapy (which also holds off osteoporosis, btw). Also, cosmetic surgery is no longer taboo. If it helps you feel better, go for it!
Life is too short. You could live to be old, or you could die tomorrow. Try to be in the moment, and don’t let fear keep you from living.
I’m hoping for the dying tomorrow option.
I relate. I am 51 and would be fine if today is my last day on this planet.
Valerie Riddle says
I’ve had this fear my whole life. I cried when I turned 18 because I knew I would have to get a job and support myself for decades to come. When I turned 30, I freaked because I thought I’d have a steady job in a career I, hopefully, enjoyed by then and have my life in order. And I felt so old. I freaked again when I turned 40 because I couldn’t believe I was 40. And I felt so old. I really freaked out when I turned 50. That’s when everything started going out on me, and I knew I really was getting old. By the time I turned 60, I just felt numb about it. I took a vacation for my 60th birthday to keep my mind from it, and it ended up being the last time I was able to work. My back went out at my last work, and afterward, I was still in a lot of pain, so I was given another week off. The day before I was to return to work, they called me and told me not to come back to work. Three months later, I was told that I could return to work, but only if I could do so with no restrictions. Seeing as how I had already been working with restrictions for three years prior, for another work-related health issue, there was no way I would ever be able to work again with no restrictions. So now I’m old, living with daily pain, and pushing 70. I have been happily married for 19 years and love my life, but the fear is getting worse. I worry about things like eventually being unable to take care of myself and having to depend on someone else, especially when my back goes out. I fear it may someday go out permanently. I worry that I will end up alone because my husband has had lifelong health issues. Not to mention that women tend to live longer than men. He is only a day shy of 1 year older than me. I worry about losing my mental faculties. It seems like I forget things more and more frequently, and it really bothers me. If I don’t act on a thought the moment I have it, it will be gone. I’m notorious for walking into a room to get or do something and totally forgetting what it was. But most of all, I am afraid of the dreaded “D” word. I have been since I was a child. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. The thought of not existing anymore terrifies me beyond words. It’s the one subject I hate to talk about. It doesn’t help that my husband talks about it all the time. It doesn’t seem to worry him, and he even jokes about it. You’d think, after 22 years together, he’d have desensitized me to it by now, but I still often have nightmares if I think or talk about it. I will probably have nightmares tonight. Perhaps my fear is more along the lines of thanatophobia rather than gerascophobia, but for me, they kind of go hand in hand. Fear of aging was at the forefront for my first 50 years, and now the other fear is slowly creeping up and taking the lead. I’m not getting any younger here, and I feel like my time is starting to run out. I can’t tell you how many restless, sleepless nights this has caused me. My way of coping with the fear is to distract myself and not think about it at all. I’ve always loved video games, so now I’m a 68-year-old gamer. My husband gets bored easily, so we try to go somewhere and/or do something at least once a week. Even if it’s just walking around SAM’s Club so I can visit my 86″ Samsung TV (I WILL have it one day!). That helps a lot, but then he invariably talks about it again, and I shatter inside. He doesn’t do it to be a jerk. He had surgery to remove cancer a few years ago, so it’s always on his mind, and he tends to talk about it a lot. It all just adds to my fear. My fear of losing him and my fear of him.. going. He knows it really bothers me, and he’ll shut up if I tell him to, but I don’t think he fully understands just how deeply it affects me. He tries to tell me how it’s inevitable, and we all do it, and it’s just a part of life and tries to make light of it. For me, it’s another nail in my coffin.
Robin B says
That is me to a T. We should chat.
Wow, I have read many of the comments going back several years and every one of them I find community with – no matter what age of the commenter. That DREAD is so real. How did one woman put it – the boney hand of aging on their shoulder. I am 58 and I call it “my 8th year trying to accept that I turned 50”. 50 was when the dread just clapped on to my innards and has not let go. I simply CANT accept my 40s just whizzed by – even though I was hyper-aware of aging since 44. I actually found a poem I wrote like noting that 44 was NOT GOOD. I could see the years flipping by to 50 and I dreaded that. But it happened anyway. Now I will be 60 in less than 24’months and part of me is just ready to go. I can’t take the fear and pressure. My parents are now 91 and 88. They are “ok” but could die any day. I am going to have to go through that. My brother and I are estranged. (He is a total jerk) and this blockage has made my 3 nieces strangers to me since I am not invited to come spend the day with them (they live about a two-hour drive but I would drive in a heartbeat). My sister is like a dude. She doesn’t have any sisterly behaviors and keeps all info to herself. Her husband the same. They have one adopted son who I am good with, he is 11 but let’s face it – he is never going to take any care of me nor my nieces nor my siblings. The boy I fell in love with in college I pursued post-college but he married someone else. I never met anyone else who I wanted to marry or who wanted to marry me. I have no kids. I am TERRIFIED of ever having to go to a state-run home. I was raised Catholic but that belief system doesn’t lift me up from the fear. I am beginning to think maybe I should consider becoming a nun, at least I would live in a community that would care for me. I don’t mind being alone now as I am healthy and active. But That doesn’t LAST. I have considered looking for a date but come on, men in their 50s-60s you are just looking to take on another person’s health issues. It’s hard enough to deal with your own aging. If I am at the park with my dogs and most of the other people are clearly in their 30s I feel like I want to cry. I want to be in my 30s too. I “feel” like 40 tops. So all of this is what I call “AGE DYSMORPHIA” part of the Gerontophobia (can’t see if I spelled that right). I do animal rescue and I have about 15 cats and 2 dogs who are dependent on me so I can’t just die on them. I am very attracted to the idea of what’s in the film NOMADLAND to just get a cool bus and travel around. I don’t want to get older and older in an apartment. A Rolling Stone gathers no moss so to speak. I am really looking into that. I just feel so depressed. This fear of becoming an older not sexy at all marginalized forgotten person with nothing to face but the loss of others’ friends and family passing and my own mortality getting cancer (my big fear) or WHAT it is that is going to take me out. An accident? Will I be shot randomly? A fire? I just read about this lovely 33 yr old with two rescue dogs who died when a man committing suicide jumped out of his apt window and LANDED on her and killed her. Just so unfair. Anyway, there is no cure for this. Woody Allen talks a lot about his fear of aging now he is in his 70s. He keeps making movie after movie because he says “I can’t die if I am directing a film” that is his way to try and control the fear. I think it’s WAY worse for women because the aging is compounded by the LOSS OF BEAUTY. Society puts so much currency on beauty. So losing it bit by bit is horrifying. As Cher says – AGING SUCKS. But there is no alternative. So here is how bad it is. Say you could with plastic surgery look truly 40 when you are 70. Your hands, neck, body, the whole thing. No droop or loose skin etc. BUT YOUR MIND KNOWS YOU ARE 70. So you still would feel that depression. You could pull off hanging with 40 yr olds but you would not be truly cured. At least I wouldn’t. I would feel like a fake. The only way around this is if you lose your mind and don’t know your age BUT WHO WANTS TO HAVE DEMENTIA and have people feeling sorry for you? My proud stubborn independent bachelor uncle who was a doctor ended up with regular dementia in his early 80s and died of a stroke in a care facility. At the end, he didn’t recognize anyone and had to have adult “diapers” changed and his only focus was enjoying a sandwich. HE WAS A DOCTOR who once flew glider planes. It was horrifying. I couldn’t believe he was letting people change his underwear. But he didn’t care as his mind had let go. So all of this is just utterly appalling and I just don’t have an answer. I am glad to have read all these entries as I realize this fear is in many people who are willing to admit it and call it out. The people who have commented who also had worked in a care facility — you guys are killing me! You have confirmed my deepest fears. But thank you. No sugar coating. So what is there to “look forward” to with aging. I don’t see anything but trouble and loss and sorrow and incapacitation. My dad who is 91 used to play tennis all the way to about 75. He had such a strong serve it blew the racquet out of your hand. I miss that dad. The man now can’t walk to the end of the driveway. Breaks my heart. My mom did ballet and line dancing and yoga until about 82. Then it just all started to unravel. Falling. Injury. She now has to take your arm when walking. IT IS SO SAD. She was so active. It’s a blessing to have parents live so long but it’s also melancholy and memories and not being able to stop the decline. Stevie Nicks song about “getting older” and can she face the “seasons of her life”. She wrote that song when she was young but was a wise soul. I don’t feel I can face the seasons of my life. Good with SPRING and SUMMER – but at 58 and mid-autumn it just makes me so DOWN. Who wants to live in AUTUMN. I want summer forever. If I could move somewhere that AGE was irrelevant to society I would pack my bags tonight. I made a promise to myself at 50 (gulp) all those “over the hill” birthday cards I once looked at in the store like “ha that’s for old people” NOW I HAVE BLOWN BY THAT AGE – I promised myself to never tell anyone my age again. Not lie, just refuse to state. I let people see me as I am to them. And let that be their reality. The man I met at a political get-together asked me out. I am not attracted to him but he thinks I am 45. Not 58. That was flattering (in my mind) but sad too. All of it. Even though I would not share my age with him (and I just told him I was in a relationship) I still was depressed. Great that he thinks I am 45 but oh if only I was. As another person wrote what exactly is the point to live a life only to lose everything. MAN is the only sentient being on the planet who can CONTEMPLATE HIS OWN MORTALITY. No wonder usually people say if they could come back to earth it would be like an animal. I think I would have been quite a happy crow or seagull. Well, good luck everyone. Keep sharing your fears here, it’s good therapy!
Oh God Whitney, I hear you loud and clear. I wish we could sit down and just exchange all this. I think I wouldn’t fear getting old if I wasn’t alone. I have three sons but one, the one I thought would be the one to step up and take care of me, just told me he sees no problem with care homes. They aren’t all bad he says. And admits he doesn’t have time to look after an aging parent. So there went that option. I have so much I could write. It’s such a lonely place. What really brought this to a head tonight was I visited a friend in his 70’s who has fallen and has a hematoma in his brain. He is in the hospital. Since retiring he has lost his memory more. I can tell when he talks. My parents died at 61 and 58 and I consider that a blessing. No fear of getting some age-related terminal illness that takes you out of this world. I don’t want to live so long if I don’t know who I am, can’t recognize my children, or be independent. I would love to chat more. I am 62 and the older I get the worse my fear of getting older gets.
Oh my. You have just written down exactly how I feel. I am 51 years old. My father has beginning dementia and he is only 78. My mom is not in good health and has no patience for my Dad. I have no children. I have recently lost two uncles and two aunts. What is there to look forward to? I am struggling in my profession and feel too old to start over. I am blessed with a wonderful partner and the most amazing friends anyone could ask for, but every day is a struggle. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
My heart breaks for other people who suffer from this fear, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I will be 20 years old in a few months. I’ve cried on my birthday every year since I was 16. I understand that relatively, I am still young by definition. But it’s still hard to live every day knowing you can’t get it back or do it over. I suffer from Anxiety, Depression, and ADHD, which I’ve been reading is common among this fear. I hate to admit that aging and inevitable death tend to be on my mind frequently in my life. I’ve tried to share this with close friends and family, but it is hard for them to understand the absolute sickness, dread, and sadness this causes people. I hope one day that I and anyone who suffers can overcome the blanket of fear that aging has caused us.
Hi, I totally get it. Nobody around me understands it either. I had this fear when I was young, but it’s becoming bigger as I’m getting older. My sister once laughed and said, what is the fear of dying? If you fear it so much, why don’t you just pray? I feel that I haven’t enjoyed life, which makes me angry. I hope I can find spirituality this year. I intend to improve my character, and I intend to seek help.
I’ve had the fear my whole life too. Then I became an RN, and as I saw more and more how it was for people as they aged, it became worse. The icing on the cake was watching my father age. He at least had the money for care, but once dementia developed, things magnified. I am not going to be able to afford physical healthcare as I develop the ailments that come with the aging of our bodies (heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, etc.) My father ended up (after years of being cared for at home) in a nursing home. I visited and sat with him every day at the nursing home. He had to be spoon-fed for over two years.
I became disabled in my 40s and had the time to be there for him, so I am grateful for the time I had with him, but I do admit that witnessing him and the other residents magnified my fears. I survive on SSD (I am 61) and can barely afford to get by now. Healthcare is so expensive that I won’t be able to afford to pay my 20% that Medicare doesn’t pay as I age and develop the health problems that come with aging. Then I also worry about not being able to afford to have house repairs done. Not ever going to be able to buy another car once this one goes. I was SUPPOSED to be able to work and have money by for my aged years so that aging would at least be tempered by knowing I could afford to deal with it. Now I worry constantly. And I do mean constantly. I wake up dreading the struggle of surviving another day and worrying about worse health in my future and the inability to care for, or to provide for, myself.
I’m not afraid of death. It’s the aging and dying process (along with the lack of finances to care for myself during these processes) that creates a constant tightness in my chest (it’s fear, I know it is). I feel like, “Can’t we just get this over with quickly, Lord?” How many more years of living in fear must I endure?
I understand. My sister doesn’t want to hear about it either. And at church all I hear is, “Don’t you have faith? Don’t you trust God?”
For reference, I’m a 19-year-old woman. My 19th birthday recently passed, and my partner and I (we have been together since 9th grade) have been having a lot of talks about our future. He wants the regular “American dream,” a house and kids by 25. I actually am terrified to turn 20 next May. My anxiety about aging comes at me like a wrecking ball, mostly at night. It’s like a re-occurring dream, except it is reality. I fear having to have children before the age of 25 to not be an “old mom,” I fear not having a successful/fulfilling career, and I fear losing the most common abilities I have now, like memory or movement. I could make you a list that goes on into infinity of reasons. In most of these comments I’m reading, everyone is over 30, and I feel like I’m overreacting. But one last comment by a 20-year-old inspired me to share my story. Thank you to everyone SLIGHTLY older than me commenting; you don’t know how much I truly appreciate your wisdom. Hopefully, if I keep reading, someone comments on how to cure us, lol.
Hi, I’ve been having this feeling since I was 12. I am now 18 and sometimes feel like I haven’t lived my life to the fullest through those years, even though they were pretty normal and good years. At first my fear of aging came from not being a child anymore. Then it became associated with not living each year to the fullest as a teen. Sometimes I think I’ve overcome this fear but it comes back.
Lynn Jones says
Hi, I’m glad I found this site and that I’m not alone in my fear of growing old! I’ve been like this from as far back as I can remember relating old age to death which I know isn’t necessarily the case. I try to keep busy and have a lot of close friends and 2 girls now in their 30s as well as being blessed with Grandchildren. I know I’ve been so blessed and I should be thankful for my life, if only I could snap out of worrying about aging but unfortunately it’s not that simple. I too have had CBT and other counseling to no avail, it still consumes my everyday life. Love to all you sufferers. Xx
I am 29 turning 30 next month and i fear getting old since i was 18. When i was 14 i wanted to grow up fast and go to college but at 18 i started having fear. At 22 i went to a counselor and at 28 as well i had anxiety. Now turning 30 it’s freaking me out, i feel youth is going, i was not able to live my youthful days between 16 to 23. I get lots of childhood dreams and i cry when i have to wake up. I suffered from anxiety, ADHD, gerascophobia and insomnia. I feel it’s ending for me. Making friends is not possible, no connection, no sense of belonging and i feel trapped.
I too had the similar feeling and I’m still having it at age 45 right from age 20. I’m trying to control it.
I am also 45 and I’ve been feeling like this for years but it gets worse every year.
Hi Ashish, I understand. I now realize that there are a lot of people like us. You are not alone.
Peter Hanley says
I am not happy to hear or read about old people who were never married. Getting older is a real zero.
I am only 14 and I feel like every day is just passing by me without me noticing, it feels kind of scary.
Hey Anna, when I was young I was terrified of getting old. I think you should talk to someone. Keeping it to yourself is the worst thing you can do.
I’m 15 and feel the same way, you’re not alone :) We’ll get through this, just try and do something memorable every day!
I’m having a current flare up of this. I’ve had this phobia from a young age. I had a lot of terrible stuff happen to me as a child but also lots of fun but the anxiety attacks used to be about dying, then they switched to aging. Since 16 it’s been debilitating at times. I got married at 18, had a baby at 20, spent my 20’s working as a nursing assistant and cashier and now I’m 31 not knowing what I want to accomplish or who I am. At 27 I had my first full on depression and was diagnosed with GAD and depression. Since November after a falling out with my older sister Panic Syndrome started and I lost 50 lbs in 6 months. I’m currently having another episode based on a visit home and I have to constantly remind myself that the old folks we see nowadays came from a vastly different time and that our old age homes will be filled with technology. Medical advancements are going to have us in our own homes longer. We are currently the longest living generation for humans. We are fearing what we know now without optimism of what it could be. Having mental illness is no joke and I hope you are all taking care of yourselves. Let’s keep trying for optimism!
Bev Grauman says
I am about to turn 65 and I cannot wait to turn 66 so I can finally retire from work. I have been in social services for 30 years and I have nothing left to give. I do not fear growing old, but I do fear becoming mentally or physically incapacitated. I have adult children but do not think they will want to care for me if or when this happens. I work in a health clinic and I see people in their early 50’s and late 40’s who look older than me. I am still pretty physical and I really think staying active is your best defense against aging. I have seen 30 year olds have strokes and 50 year olds die of heart attacks. I think the key is to make good friends and then be there for each other. Create the family you will need for support. The older I get the more I believe a good support group of friends is invaluable as you age. It is your other old friends who will be at your bedside.
Thank you for this! I’m 31 and have had this phobia since I was 15! I had a baby at 20 and now with middle school approaching I’m wondering what direction I should go in my life. I spent 5 years in home care seeing what happens at the worst and it did not make growing old look fun. I have to remind myself that if they were healthy, they wouldn’t have needed a caregiver.
I agree. My fear is not just being weak, unhealthy and being dependent on others, but how I will look as I age. Wrinkly, saggy skin, poor vision, posture issues and deafness terrify me as well.
Maria Medina says
Barbie that’s what worries me the most. I ask God for acceptance. I don’t know if it has to be with the fact that I had a bad childhood. My mom abused me physically and I was bullied in school. They would throw things at me and call me ugly. So I don’t know if it is that. What has helped me the most has been Eucharistic adoration. God can heal anything.
I’m 55 yrs old and dread very much each passing day of getting older. I suffered from panic anxiety and depression almost my entire life. I never enjoyed my life besides when I was 14 yrs old with my grandmother who took care of me and took me to Germany to visit my relatives way back in 1975. The rest of my life afterwards was nothing but misery depression and no happiness. I really do not understand the meaning of life and death besides being sad emotionally. I hope there is an afterlife and a much better place than the one I have experienced.
This is the saddest thing I’ve ever read and it almost made me cry as soon as I read it. My heart hurts so much for you.
I too have suffered with anxiety, GAD and some depression for years and continue to do so for now.
I’ve prayed for you, I know you don’t believe in what I do – but I’ve prayed Jesus will find you and you’ll come to know him and find some sense of peace and happiness.
Also know that you have a purpose still – and there is an afterlife to my belief, you don’t need to do a lot only to believe and accept Jesus died and paid the price for anything you can ever do wrong – and rose again making you righteous to all promises in the Bible.
I’m not remotely an evangelist never even done this before – but if this message can even remotely help you even a little then I’d be so happy.
Eddie, I hope you have found some peace and maybe a bit of happiness since you posted this. Life is hard. None of us asked to be here. I hate the ugliness life has in it. I now love animals more than people. Why do some people seem to have the best of luck in life and others have to struggle from day one. These are all questions I have pondered. But still have no clue to the answer.
Old age is beautiful when an individual has lived a fulfilled life. The joy that springs forth in your heart when you see how much impact you have made on the younger folks around you keeps you refreshed at old age.
Come on now! Do you really believe what you said? Aging is the cruelest of jokes inflicted on us all. This age related rot is almost more than I can stand. I do not wish for a long life. This deterioration is too much to endure. I’m glad you have made peace with this disease called aging.
Justina Randgolf says
Aging is not a disease, it’s a fact.
It’s exactly that, a disease. If we threw as much at it as a society the way we’re throwing everything into policing each other, we’d have it whooped. Unfortunately though, most just roll over and say oh well we’ll just wait for the government to do something about it. Aging is 100% a preventable disease.
Tom W. says
I’m 60 years old. I just stumbled upon this site today. I liked the comments on here. I have never been married and no kids. I live by myself. I enjoy living by myself, but I have fears, sometimes, that something will happen to me. I don’t fear death, though I feel like I’m not ready for it. I fear more of not being well and alone. I live in a condo complex now where it’s very hard for me to make friends. The neighbors are all into themselves. And the neighbors are young, coupled, in a group, and in a family. They don’t need me.
I’m in good health now. I workout and go bike riding frequently. I look younger than my age, some people say. One time I had prostate cancer and had surgery for it two years ago. I was pretty much alone when I went through it. I don’t know how I made it through. I don’t want that to happen again. As of right now things are going very well; except I don’t have many friends. And I have very little family with hardly any contacts with them.
My sister has asked me to move in with her. She has a husband and two children. She’s 11 years older than me and the two kids are in their late teens. I’d rather not move to that area and be with them. I never liked the area where they are and it seems like there’s way too much drama for me. Yet, I fear that there will come a day when I may regret not making that move. But now I feel that I would regret making the move there. Besides, I’m not so sure if my sister and her husband are in good health. My sister does not sound good when she talks to me. She says she’s fine, but I find it hard to believe. She always sound very tired and can drift off into sleep while talking to me in the middle of the day.
Peter Hanley says
What better place to go for your birthday than Florida? Everybody must think of Florida as a birthday destination. The perfect place to go for your birthday is the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Florida.
followup post please
I have been having non-stop panic for over a week about turning 30. 30 seems so old and I feel like my life is almost over. My biggest fear about aging is death. I don’t believe in an afterlife and I’m terrified of not existing anymore. I would suffer through pain and looking ugly and old if I could live longer. Time is going by so fast and in the blink of an eye, I’ll be on my death bed. Sometimes I wish I was never born so I never would have had to experience life just to lose everything.
This too I shall agree with…. it hurts so much.
Nailed it. Why even have to experience it, when it’s not even ours to do with what we like. No control when we enter or leave, or anything in between. Except emotions and feelings that are just going to either be ripped from us, or thrust upon us. Either way, the ending is the same.
Alison Browning says
I am terrified of aging, more of aging than death and always have been, as I am barren and had no children and my family are dying off as I have hit 50 I won’t be one of these old people with family all around as I will have no family, I fear above all going into a care home, I worked in these hell holes with many staff especially younger ones who had a crap attitude to residents, they were lazy good for nothings with no respect and when people have Dementia they are totally 100% at the mercy of those caring for them. I dread that not being in control, being incontinent and having to be fed and changed and knowing some carers cut corners and won’t wash me to my high standards, in care homes I always washed my residents well and made them comfy and got a hard time for not speeding , I thought two fingers to you staff and your sick attitudes I will take as long as I like making my patients comfortable and treated with dignity. I lost my granny to Alzheimers and my dad to Lewy Body dementia and it’s hell seeing someone become helpless and having life robbed away bit by bit . I wish I could just drop dead one day or go in my sleep and if I am told I have Dementia I shall take the easy way out. I hope in the future there will be the right to assisted suicide if the patient wants this, there must be no pressure and for it to be entirely their decision when they have the mental capacity to make that choice. I have been age phobic since my 20s because of the utter fear and dread of being in a nursing home.
I agree with everything you said… except… suicide…..sorry. I feel your pain…. I’m a CNA and yes 99% of them here in Los Angeles are pitiful.
Near sixty and have seen too much of what happens to the elderly. I want out before that happens to me. Do not want to cling to life as I see so many doing. For what? A few extra years? Nothing, not even a wink in time when one considers that the earth has been around for billions, billions of years.
Hi Alison! I understand I’m replying to this comment a year or so later and you might not see this, but I came here too because I recently had a flash of this and I’m 19!
I just turned 19 about 2 weeks ago and I had a horrific dream about my parents dying. It sounds strange, but my dad’s currently approaching 50 and he’s quite unwell at the moment, so for me, I started viewing 50 as the age to fear. Then my mum, who had me at 18 and is currently almost 37, comments that she feels incredibly old. So 37 is the age now that I started to fear, which is now 17 years away from me.
However, the one thing I can reassure you on at least from my personal experience is the fear of being in care. I can’t speak for every care home, but my family’s business is actually running a care home for people with dementia – my grandparents, at 74 and 72, still run it hands on, and the majority of people in my family work there. I spent time there from the age of 5 regularly to the present day, and all of my experiences have been so positive there, and every resident that I’ve ever met there has been so happy. Joan, for example, thinks every Saturday is her wedding day. So her beaming husband of 68 years comes in every Saturday dressed to the nines so that the two of them can have their weekly wedding. Super Ron (or Helen Keller as we call him) is turning 100 next month! He’s also completely blind, partially deaf, yet ironically his favourite thing to do is listen to Clive the musician, who comes in every Thursday. Plus, he always has a great big beaming smile on his face! So, take it from me that whilst there are people who cruelly take advantage of the elderly, there are also in spades amazing places for them to spend their final years, as I’ve been privileged to experience my whole life.
I’m 34, single, unhappy with my job, life choices, etc.. I’m in therapy for anxiety and major depression that started a few months before my birthday in September. ( always had a little bit of both though but just kind of dealt with it) To top it all off, I am absolutely TERRIFIED of getting older. Just the thought of being 35 makes me want to cry and go into a panic, forget 40, 50 , and older. I didn’t realize this is an actual phobia until recently and I’ve never been actually diagnosed but it sounds like something I should look into. My biggest fear is dying obviously but getting older also means you lose your looks ( as a woman this is terrible), you get wrinkles, become unattractive and invisible to anyone of the opposite sex, health problems arise, you get passed over for jobs for someone younger, younger people think you’re ancient and out of touch, the list goes on. I’m so scared that I don’t even tell people my age. I’m lucky that right now I could still pass for 22. Everyone in my office is a lot older than me and they assume I’m in my 20s. And I just let them think what they want, I have never once mentioned my age out of fear of judgement and ridicule, and also the fact that saying it out loud makes it real. I can honestly say that I would kill to be in my 20s again. Yes I know that’s not normal and ridiculous but I can’t stop the thoughts. It’s so hard to deal with since there’s no way to stop it. The only way to stop aging is to die and I’m scared of that too so I would never even attempt suicide. I don’t know how to control these thoughts and I feel like they’re getting worse.
Hey-Im Alex. I have been a healthcare provider many years and really understand how it feels to see others when they are older and helpless-and without family. I share your fear lately-I do not have children and my family is small and getting older. I wonder how I will end up. Although I am very youthful and just hit 54-it gets a bit scary to consider. I guess the main thing I wonder is “WHO” I would have to watch out for me. lol. The other fear that might be natural is will we be alone always to the end? I think we need to figure out how to focus on being more of a part of things – like churches, etc so we are not so alone at the end. My hopes are to care for my family and always have them but we must also learn to integrate with others. My thoughts are with you!
Asia Moore says
I know this post is old but everything that you said I can relate to 100% I need help really! the thoughts wont go away its 9:17 at night and I’m researching this smh I never knew this was even a phobia.
I relate to everything you have said. I’ve lied about my age for the last 10 years and since I look 10-15 years younger, or so everyone says, I can get away with it. I have plans at some point to have cosmetic surgery and already do Botox, which cost a bit, but it makes me feel and look better and have some control. I never ever want to be thought of as old, uncool and left out. Each new decade I really start to panic! 30 was really bad for me but the fear of being old started in my teens and has just escalated from there. I’m a very image conscious person, so losing my looks is just terrifying to me. When I see matronly women I just cringe. I hate being this way but it’s the sad truth.
If u r scared of getting old then do things that will keep you feeling & thinking young, join a yoga group,a craft or gardening group, learn to use a computer, stay social arrange to meet friends for coffee once a week.Read books & try your hand at learning something new.If you don’t have a pet get one, dogs & birds are easily trained, cats r a challenge but a good challenge. Photography is a great hobby. Find a club. Make new friends. Most of all think young.God Bless you all.
If it was true that Jesus Christ resurrected… oh my! That should radically change our worldview, and specially of course the fear of getting old.
For all those persons afraid of aging, please read More than a Carpenter by Josh Mcdowell
Alicia Moreno says
when i was little i had a dream where my grandma who was already dead appeared and we were all in the kitchen and then when i looked into the mirror i was old from that day for a couple of weeks i couldnt even look at an old person i was afraid of my own grandpa. It went away but after that year but every time it was the end of the year my phobia would always appear i wasnt afraid of old people anymore but that feeling would just appear every year at the end of it today i finally told my mom like 12 years later lol i feel so much better and honestly i read the bible and i pray to God im a Jehovah’s Witness and the bible talks about how we will live in a paradise and stay young and live forever and in Psalm 37:29 “The righteous will possess the earth, And they will live forever on it”
Alison Browning says
I lost my religion, I do miss it but there’s just no way it’s relevant to me anymore.
Here I go again agreeing with you.
I lost my immortality story. I, too, miss it, but when you have come to this “place”, there is no going back.
Yasmine Ayad says
I just graduated from high school and the thought of college and growing up terrifies me. I’m constantly thinking that I’m getting closer to death. And this leaves me terrified. I want to stop thinking about it but I can’t, please help me.
Alison Browning says
I understand I have been this way since my youth, it’s horrible, I have anti depressants and did have therapy but could no longer afford it. It is crippling. I am 50 now and not over it yet
Hey I’m the same. I just graduated like two days ago. It makes me feel sick that I’ll be 20 in a year. It just keeps on going. And time doesn’t stop.
Doomed Doff says
Tayanita could be my little sister,I am 62 and facing life alone as my 2 grown children are flying the nest soon.
I have always dreaded death/growing old/loosing any “youthful looks” I may still have .
On the whole I enjoy my own company, I have a few friends to whom I keep in touch with, however the boney hand of aging and death forever rests on my shoulders.
I dread any news about any of my relatives dying..the thought of the long sad journey and the tears…just make me feel sick. I try to push the dark thoughts away,” put them in a box”..but they still creep out at night.
I am involved with my art,(as I am a retired Art Teacher),but my lack of confidence,shyness over my work and general LAZINESS has prevented me from exhibiting.
Life is what you make of it, I am painfully aware that MILLIONS are worse of than I…I just wish I was born with an optimistic active personality,instead of the “WE are all Doomed one”…even the thought of the sun dying in a billion years gives me a gut wrenching fear…silly huh?
Alison Browning says
I feel the same, it’s worse for me as I was barren and had no family so dread a lonely old age and ending up in a home with no one to visit me even
Greg - Editor East Coast Stories says
Zombie movies are really about people’s fear of getting old. Zombies are a allegory for old people. Zombies walk slowly, no longer remember who they are yet somehow congregate at places that used to be familiar to them. People you once knew and loved turn into Zombies. It is considered more merciful to kill them then to let them remain in that condition. (This is the secret opinion of many people that dead is better than old). The flip side to this is the popularity of Nostalgia stories. Everything used to be better when you were young. (On my own website, nostalgia stories are some of the most popular.)
Neither reveling in the Past or fearing the Future is any way to live. The best advice to follow every day is to “be where you are.”
Zombie movies are about the undead, not about old people. Zombies are not real.
John McDonald says
Im 51 And i also Have a Great Fear of Getting old, And im just not sure How to deal with it and overcome it, So if anyone can Help me, Please do, My Email is JMcD777 @ gmail.com
max conde says
Hi I’m 22 years old and I’m very scared of growing older, I know it is inevitable and I know it is reality but I’m still frightened by it. I don’t want my friends or family to die before me, I’ve already had friends and family members who have passed and I still feel sad about their passing. It’s weird because I know and understand the reality of it but it still scares me.
I’m practically a child. Getting older scares me so much, that I end up crying. When I was younger, I would sit and think about my mother, and my two older brothers dying, and me being by myself. I’m afraid of getting closer to death. It’s not something I’m good at dealing with. I really don’t want to deal with it. I don’t know if I have this phobia or not because I don’t do any of the symptoms, but I mostly just end up crying and feeling dreadful.
Joseph Dabon says
I turned 68 a week ago. Before I turned 40, I constantly dreamed that I would die when I reached that age. A day before my birthday, I stayed home, didn’t go out, prayed that it would be a painless death. Then watched and waited until the clock struck midnight.
And you know what? Nothing happened. I did not die. I later rationalized that my dreams of dying were a subconscious fear of getting old.
Now I am old and I have never enjoyed life as much as now. The only difference between now and so many years before is our age. Otherwise, who is stopping you from living your life the way you want to? Have fun and be merry for we shall never pass this way again.
The best comment.
Anton Ossa says
I just turned 66 and love it. Every day is a new day. I love my life and each new day!
Jaxkie makxie says
Another year you’re getting older but you get scared, it’s natural, it’s got to happen one day I think I’ve got Gerascophobia but a really minor case due to this happens rarely. Bless up.
Diana Mallaney says
I am 64 in June, and terrified of the ageing process. I am on my own for the first time, and I feel very lonely although I reach out to others for support.
I don’t know how to cope with this and it is impinging on all areas of my life.
Anna kay says
Hi Diana Mallaney, I can just imagine what a difficult time you are having transitioning in this phase of your life. I would suggest that you try to remain as social as possible to deal with the feelings of loneliness. For example: join a book club, attend church, you can even mentor youths within your community. Also try to involve your family in all areas of your life as much as possible. All the best :)
Joe bloggs says
Didn’t want to leave my name or email but I have a serious phobia of ageing . I will not be celebrating my next birthday and have told all friends and family to abide by this. I avoid every single invitation to socialize in fact I haven’t been out with friends for 20 years. It’s not for the fear of being alone as I love my own company it’s the way I will look when I’m old. I do not want to get old and really hope I don’t, I would rather go out of this world now than grow old.
Alison Browning says
I feel exactly the same . My fear is not being alone and not even of being dead it is of being helpless and ending up in a care home at the mercy of indifferent staff , I worked in the care profession for years and sadly most staff in those places should not be working there. When my older relatives have died there will be no one as I was unable to have kids. So no one to fight my ground if I get Dementia and end up in a home.
Please post where you at today, emotionally. I have similar fears, very realistic fears I might add, and find them quite overwhelming. Thank you