Do You Know an Older Person Who Seems Anxious?
Have you ever noticed that people over 50 seem to be experiencing more anxiety than they did in their 30’s and 40’s? What ever happened to “This is the time of your life?” or “Relax and Retire”, or “Twilight of life.” These phrases all depict a sweet, serene, calm time in one’s life when the cares of rearing children, pursuing a demanding career and never having enough hours in the day are over.
We all dream of the day where we can breathe a little easier, spend a little more time in bed and take a few more vacations. Isn’t that what older, almost retired people do? They have money in the bank, no more debt and lots of free time. Right?
Well, if you asked older people, you would get an entirely different take on what it is like to live to be over 50. By this time, the health issues have crept up. The scale brings more pounds, the blood tests bring poor results with blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels. The creaky joints, the arthritic tendencies, the feeling blue are just a tip of the ice burg. Besides looking in the mirror and seeing wrinkles and saggy skin along with thinning hair and bleeding gums, you may also be feeling a bit constipated and uncertain why there is a certain pain somewhere that just lingers every day. Do you need to get that checked out? Will the insurance cover a diagnostic test for it? What if it is something serious?
While those in their 30’s and 40’s face different types of fear such as “Will I get a promotion this year?” or, “What if my child doesn’t get accepted into that school?” or “We really need to move to a bigger house, but can we afford it?”– those over 50 are facing the fears of “Do we have enough money saved so we can actually retire someday?” or, “Will I ever see any Social Security benefits?” or “I just attended another funeral of someone younger than me, am I next?”
As people age, they tend to have more time on their hands which may be good, but it may also allow them to think about their own aches and pains, the activities they can no longer perform and what else could be in their future. These are all uncomfortable areas that when we were younger, we didn’t have time to think about.
It has been proven that the older a person becomes, the more likely they will suffer from what is known as General Anxiety Disorder. A fancy medical term for fear. Some surveys suggest one in five older adults suffer from serious anxiety.
In the research several different conclusions were drawn: If you weren’t much of a risk taker when you were younger, you may have more difficulty with aging. If it was easier for you to adapt to change when you were younger, you may be able to face age related changes with a more positive attitude.
My mom was a nurse’s aid for over 20 years in a nursing home. She saw many things that she thought would prepare her for when she grew older. As I have watched her through the years, it is quite evident that although she witnessed people in declining health, held their hands as they drew their last breath and went in to visit a lonely person on her day off, she, herself is still frightened of losing her independence, her bladder control and her mind.
Yes, the older we get the greatest fear we have is fear of loss:
Will we lose our health and be a burden on our loved ones?
Will we outlive the money we have saved and be a burden on our loved ones?
Will we end up with a life-threatening illness that will cause debilitating pain?
Will we lose the ability to communicate and think clearly?
Will we lose our loved ones?
Although there is no magic panacea for old age, there are several areas that we must adhere to closely the further we get from 50:
- We must learn to manage our minds. We cannot let our fears take over and prevent us from having faith in our bodies and in our God.
- We must eat fewer calories but greater amounts of protein and vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. The opportunities to cheat must be fewer as we age. Sadly, our bodies have less hormones, our livers are more toxic and we don’t have the ability to quickly recover from a food binge.
- We must continue to exercise. Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant. Movement will be the key to longer lasting health.
- Relationships are more important than ever. Loneliness can become the insidious link to poor health. Get involved and stay in touch!
- Find meaningful ways to fill your time. Whether you are a volunteer, start a book club or play with the grandchildren, keep yourself busy doing life-promoting activities.
- We must learn to manage our grief. We will indeed lose loved ones. This is a part of life. If we are blessed to live a longer life, we will then lose even more loved ones. Remember to share in the joy of knowing them and allow yourself to grieve them, but know that this is truly the circle of life and God has all of this planned out already.
- Continue to get annual blood tests. These will assist you in understanding what your next steps must be in your food and supplement choices. Don’t ignore these tests. They can prevent more serious issues if you choose to stay aware.
- If you find that your anxiety is difficult to control, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to a counselor, a pastor or even a doctor. And find out the natural supplements that can reduce the levels of anxiety without resorting to a prescription based method.
Anxiety in the elderly is a serious issue. If you know someone who has lived a full life but isn’t very graceful when it comes to aging, reach out to them and help them see that they are still a vital part of God’s plan and it is perfectly ok to be afraid. We will all face the day when our hormones are less than our wrinkles and the effects will be evident both inside and outside of our bodies. With more concern for the heart of these folks than for their physical limitations, we can assist them into their final years with greater dignity and perhaps a little more peace.
When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day. Marty Bucella
It’s important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle. Author Unknown