– Old age is a new stage of life, in which everything often changes: a person stops working, starts to sit at home, there is a lot of free time … Many are waiting for these changes with fear. Why are people afraid of old age?
– People are afraid of old age, because the quality of their life changes. We can even say that people are not afraid of old age, but of what they will lose when they meet old age.
What is old age? Physiological processes are alarming at first, and then just frightening. There is a feeling that a strong, reliable house is being destroyed. At the same time, the status changes, people begin to play completely different roles. I would even say that it is precisely the loss of status that occurs: social position and rights are lost. The person retires.
Let’s be honest: there is a worldwide tendency to fire elderly people based on biological experience, where more mature individuals are simply forced out of the pack: “Akela missed!” … A person loses strength, society stops taking him seriously. The world suddenly shrinks into a circle where there is only a TV set, a summer residence, a vegetable garden and grandchildren. And although today the situation has already changed, because life expectancy has increased, our society has not yet managed to reorganize itself to be ready for an active life in retirement.
The fact is that there are two paradigms of understanding how life should develop after 50 years: the age of survival and the situation where the 30 years donated by evolution are lived interestingly and joyfully. The age of survival is an official term that is still alive in the clerical vocabulary, and it is in this wording that it fits into the work book with retirement.
How to live your retirement years in the second paradigm – that is, in a way that makes it enjoyable? This requires a change in the system of thinking and a clear understanding of what happens to us after 50 years.
– Can relatives help in this difficult period of life?
– The main task of a mature person is to accept their age. In the survival model, there are several options for an older person’s behavior after retirement.
The first option is a person respected and revered by all members of society, aksakal. But this model is typical only for traditional societies, where everything is strictly supported by family traditions. Respect for older people is also declared in Russian culture, but, unfortunately, it is rather formal and is not being implemented.
The second option is a person who has lost power and strength and becomes someone who is “used” in the family. As an example: one of my clients, a teacher at a Moscow university, receives a low salary. She has a wonderful son with his wife and children. He tells her, “Mom, why don’t you go to retirement? Why would we hire a nanny? And the pennies that you earn, I will compensate you. ” What do we hear? Devaluation of her interests and a proposal that says that she has reached a certain age and must serve others.
There is another option – the worst one: when a person is simply discounted and no longer interested and reckoned with. These are just our lonely old people. The survival model is psychologically comfortable only for aksakals, when an elderly person lives in respect with his family, can play the role of a wise adviser and arbitrator. This is a situation where grandparents build great relationships with children. Or it is an option when parents and children live separately and children do not violate their way of life. Because it is physically very often difficult for pensioners to engage in endless services for children and grandchildren, they lose their own goals and objectives.
Each role we choose, each type has its own pros and cons. For example, the same aksakal also has a shadow side – when a person becomes a domestic tyrant. Very many children are faced with just such a process. There is a status of grandmother and grandfather “in the wings”. A kind of hazing, on the contrary, when parents rigidly train their children to help the family, and then the children train them just as hard. Adult children can also use blackmail: for example, “if you give money, you will take your grandchildren for the summer.”
Many of our older people feel guilty that they are not such good grandparents, because there is an attitude in society that life at any age should be devoted to children – we have no right to our own goals and objectives. On the other hand, they can enjoy this process because they see the meaning of life in it.
Sometimes the position of behavior of an elderly person is chosen voluntarily, and sometimes it is imposed due to the fact that people cannot do otherwise, they want to maintain relations with relatives. This is why the question of whether relatives can help adapt to a new stage of life is difficult. Of course they can, but only if they accept the fact that a person has the right to his own life and will not be involved in their service in retirement.
It also happens that relatives do not accept the unexpected personal life of an older family member. They actually deprive a person of gender status, deprive him of the right to be a man or a woman. For them, the concept of “our old people” is asexual, meaning that they have no right to privacy after a certain mark in their passport …
– Is it worth it, while waiting for a pension, to specifically look for new activities – for example, to start learning a language or go to dances?
– It is important for a person to do what helps to adapt to new things. It is very useful to develop the brain with certain activities so that memory does not suffer.
At the University of Heidelberg, research was carried out on three groups of middle-aged people aged 50 to 90 years. They were offered three options for their pastime: walking at a brisk pace every day for an hour, doing crosswords or drawing. It turned out that drawing people were best able to memorize. Firstly, during this lesson there is a concentration on the details, and secondly, there is a need to constantly acquire new skills. It is important that relatives support an older person in his hobbies, and it is important for the person himself to find those activities that he will like.
– Do men and women treat old age differently? If so, why?
– Yes, of course, in different ways. For a man, the most terrible loss of strength. At the same time, the attitude towards a man is much better, and the framework that is set for him in society is more flexible. If a man gets married or changes his girlfriends, it means that he is just a “good fellow and an eagle”. And a woman who arranges her personal life after 55 years, for some reason, immediately enrolls in a lady with a dubious reputation. In addition, a woman is more fixed on the loss of visual attractiveness: this is a kind of litmus test. When external beauty leaves, there is a feeling that you are losing your status and the ability to influence others, you cease to be a woman.
– How to get through this difficult period?
– A woman needs to learn to take care of herself, to allow herself more than before, to be able to rest. In a banal version – “love yourself.” Probably, the most important thing for our women is to understand their desires, because we are all accustomed to perform some tasks for the family, and more often ask ourselves the question: “What do I really want?” – we forget.
In addition, the fear of old age is simply paralyzing. It is akin to the scheme of experiencing grief: negative emotions replace each other, various mental and physical reactions occur. In a state of age crisis, it is important to understand well what is happening to you, then adaptation to a new life will be easy. This new life is still positive, interesting and fulfilling. But if a person has not accepted the changes, then it is very difficult to live on.
There are people who get stuck in the stage of denial, insist that “everything is in order” – they do not go to doctors, for example, and, as a result, take all problems to extremes. Or a person may feel anger and rage: how is it, I am young at heart, I have many plans! It is difficult for him to accept his age. Often, against the background of denial of old age, depression can develop.
– How to accept old age?
– The first and important point is to understand that this is happening to everyone. The second is to find hobbies, hobbies for yourself, that is, to switch to some goals and objectives. If a person believes that life ends with retirement, then mentally and unconsciously begins to prepare for death – he has already completed his entire life program …
It is important to understand what type of old age you see for yourself: you can spend time with your family, you can live according to your own program. Men start to play more sports, women – cultural life. Pensioners can allow themselves everything that they did not allow before. But you must definitely find your place at this stage of life. As soon as this happens, a person sees the way, finds new friends, stress and fear of old age decreases, and the physiological state is normalized. A person easily begins to live in the model of the second half of life, which he has accepted and from which he enjoys.
– Is the fear of old age connected with the fear of death?
– Yes, of course. The fear of death appears when serious illnesses arise, or close people leave, or when you approach the age at which your parents died … There is, for example, the setting: “In our family, everyone dies at the age of N years.” I had a client whose mother died at 81. When this woman crossed the threshold at 80 years old, she suddenly began to feel bad and hurt. On the one hand, at this age, health problems are normal. On the other hand, she didn’t have any pain until she was 80. When she realized this, she was able to change such negative dynamics with well-being.
– Can religion help overcome the fear of old age?
– People go to faith under different circumstances and at different ages. In religious acceptance there is a model of consolation, there is an understanding of how life after death will develop further. There are certain requirements that hold a person: follow the laws of God, and then the kingdom of heaven is guaranteed to you. When a person accepts the idea that there are some higher forces, then the feeling disappears that everything in life depends only on you and only you are to blame for everything.
– Before your eyes there may be a model of how your mother or grandmother is aging. Is it worth talking to them on this topic in order to understand that not everything is so scary?
– Talking with the older generation (if the relationship with relatives is positive) is very important: it gives you an understanding of the path, an understanding of what awaits you in the future. Indeed, people who have had experience of caring for the elderly realize that things are not so scary. Many things stop being a shock. When you see that your close relative has gone through really difficult situations, but at the same time retained a positive attitude and his life continues, then you yourself feel positive.