The Shock of Becoming a Senior – and How to Minimise the Trauma

Senior dice on person's palm

When you reach 48, you may receive an AARP packet in the mail. You aren’t even 50 yet and they’re sending you mail. Your doctor may have already indirectly referred to you as a senior by talking about statistics and the pains you are already experiencing. Let’s face it, even before you’re 50, you’re treated like a senior by your doctor and the AARP, but you’re still too young to take advantage of the senior menus in restaurants where 55 is the magical number.

So, what does it mean to be a senior?

Your doctor might say that becoming a senior means entering a time of life when the old body is the old body and that there are certain aspects of aging that are inevitable. For example:

  • you will probably need reading glasses
  • your hand strength may diminish greatly, and you will have trouble opening bottles that were a no-brainer before
  • your balance will be less sure
  • your arm and leg strength will lessen, especially if you work in a chair all day

Because of these changes, our pride encourages us to deny, deny, deny.

People lose about 1 percent of their lean muscle mass per year after age 40, so you can do the math. What will it be like when you reach 50?

Part of the trauma of becoming older is the pride factor. Pride tends to make people ignore the issues and walk around in denial until the issues cannot be ignored any longer. By that time, a person may notice that they have some or all of the issues listed above, in spades.

What can we do?

Is there any way to lessen the emotional and physical issues before they become a problem? Yes!

To address the emotional issues, we must actually think about the issues. For some, that may be very hard, but not impossible. Much of the way we feel about aging and mid-life comes from our culture. Here are some of the things we may need to think about:

Identify the origins of your negative attitudes about aging:

  • How does your culture view the elderly and aging?
  • What negative attitudes toward aging did you pick up from childhood?
  • Are these negative attitudes realistic or fanciful? Did they come from media or from familial authority figures in your life?
  • Find a way to resolve the negative attitudes

Uncover unrealistic attitudes that are purely emotionally driven, such as:

  • negative memories of people you may have known or seen that influence your view of aging
  • old wives’ tales you may have heard that have influenced your ideas
  • offhand remarks made by others

Use logical reasoning to change these into positive attitudes.

Get used to the idea that the day is coming, and find out what your hot buttons are and how to get around your feelings about that age number you dread. If you have trouble addressing the emotional issues alone, talk to someone. Many times just talking with a friend, coworker, family member or doctor will help you identify feelings and even give clues about how to face the issue of growing older.

If you have already crossed the border and you feel old, be encouraged; you can change it. Sometimes the smallest of changes in lifestyle can make the most surprising changes in attitude. Just taking a 10-minute walk around the block can change the way you see things. Getting a little strength training will make you feel like you have done something positive toward better health.

So, don’t be afraid. There is always hope. You can do it.

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