The term for this fear is Gerontophobia and it actually has two separate but similar meanings. The first is to have an unnatural fear of aging and the second is to fear those who are already old.
Many young people may be intimidated when asked to visit an aging relative in a nursing home or even in that individuals existing home. This can be especially true if they have not visited with people who are in the golden years of life. This may be a natural response, but that fear can grow into a phobia quite easily.
For those who are aging the phobia is expressed in resisting the natural process of life. This could be expressed in multiple cosmetic surgeries and hair dyes or simply expressed in anger that life is unfair. They may seem bitter and may review their past with regret.
Some who express Gerontophobia have a fear that the population at large will be overcome by the elderly. It may be irrational, but it is a fear that is more commonly expressed than you may realize.
The Cause of Gerontophobia
The cause of the fear many have with aging is often based in discrimination. Young people will not understand someone significantly older than they are and they fear coming contact with them. The young person will believe there is nothing in common and that general disconnect can turn into fear and hatred of the elderly.
On the other hand the elderly may believe that young people have everything while they have little left at the end of life. Their own discrimination of young people can instill a loneliness that leads to fear. That fear is exhibited in a phobia about their own aging process.
Signs of Gerontophobia
Ken Dychtwald identifies seven signs that seem to be true of both those who fear the elderly and the elderly who fear aging.
- If young is good, then old is bad
- If the young have it all, the old are losing it
- If the young are creative, the old are dull
- If the young are beautiful then the old are unattractive
- If the young are stimulating, then the old are boring
- If the young are full of passion, then the old are beyond caring
- If the children are tomorrow, the old represent yesterday
Overcoming the Fear of Getting Old/Old People
It can be very helpful with this type of phobia to deal with the early stages of the fear before it becomes a fully developed phobia.
Some of the greatest assets in bridging the gap between the very young and the very old can be parents. An occasional visit with an aging person in your sphere can help you and your children learn that those who are aging have some of the same dreams and hopes that you have. They will find it hard to believe that at one point in time the elderly friend or family member was once young. If this fear is based in discrimination then facilitating a means of bridging the gap can help alleviate the fear and decrease the loneliness that can make the elderly fear their own aging process.
Is this a struggle for you or someone in your family? How are you dealing with it?