Fully 45% of women admit to being afraid of aging, according to recent research. Societal pressures, watching our children grow, seeing our parents age, feeling our bodies change, all remind us — every day — of the passage of time.
Fear of aging is most common in women aged 20-39, yet even those in their 70s are not immune. It’s more common in women who are single or separated, but still affects more than 40% of married women. It’s important to face this fear, because it could undermine overall health and well-being.
When Licensed Psychologist Nancy O’Reilly turned 50, she found no books or resources to relieve her anxiety. So, she conducted her own research on women’s feelings and belief, gathering information from more than 1,000 women.
“Just knowing I’m not alone helps a lot,” Dr. O’Reilly says. “Too many of us feel that getting older is a character flaw to conceal instead of an accomplishment to celebrate.” Dr. O’Reilly published her research in the American Journal of Health Behavior and at the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting, 2004. The results of Dr. O’Reilly’s study feature words of fear and encouragement from real women.
Many more women fear getting older than are afraid of dying.
Our society has provided few positive role models to help ordinary women feel confident of their own value and future as they age. (Tips: Find role models. Seek older mentors. Reach out. Form a Red Hat Society. Meditate, pray. )
Who’s afraid of getting older?
- More than 45% of all women aged 20-78
- Nearly 70% of separated women
- Nearly 60% of women aged 20-29
- Nearly 50% of women aged 50-59
- Only 4% of all women are afraid of dying
Women keep their aging fears deeply buried.
They hide their fears even from closest family and friends. When Julia hit menopause early, she had no idea what was happening to her or how to cope. “It was not a happy, rose-filled adventure,” Julia recalls. “It was a rocky horror show in hell.” (Tips: Talk to relatives and friends. Tell daughters good things about getting older. Celebrate your greater wisdom and confidence.)
Surprise! Women’s greatest aging fear is not losing the look of youth.
Appearance ranks low on their priorities. Women have many products and services to help them look their best at any age. (Tips: Take care of your skin. Learn to use makeup. Find fashions that flatter. Use dermabrasion or plastic surgery if you wish.)
Concern about finances tops the list for women under 30.
Women usually earn less than men, and only partly because they take time off to raise families. Women need to get comfortable meeting their own needs. (Tips: Dream big. Envision the career and income you want. Focus on change. Learn a new skill. Volunteer. Pay yourself first.)
Health rises to first place by age 30 and stays there.
Women from 30 to over 70 say they are most concerned about health problems. (Tips: Exercise. Eat a healthy diet. Have regular screenings and checkups. Pay attention to your body. Love. Laugh.)
Denial is queen.
Most women could not identify any specific health concerns. They tend to put others’ needs first: “This can’t be a heart attack — I’ve got to make dinner!” (Tips: Learn your family history and talk with a doctor about your risks. Learn the warning signs for your risks. Take one small step toward prevention each day.)
Women often equate being thin with staying young.
Women who worry about getting older are more likely to diet than to exercise, even though exercise would help more. (Tips: Stop obsessing about your weight. Exercise with a friend. Buy clothes that fit you NOW, not when you lose 10 pounds. Change negative self-talk.)
This information drawn from
- Dr. Nancy’s book: Timeless Women Speak: Feeling Youthful At Any Age