Why the panic over getting older? | Dr Laila Alghalban

Saturday August 8, 2020
By: Dr. Laila Alghalban


Why do we want to stay young? Why do we ask for the impossible? And would life be better off if there were no aging? These questions I have been mulling over for many years.  However, this week I was taken aback by a freaky news story on a rising, even revolutionary, trend among Silicon Valley’s male tech employees. They “are having facelifts (because they’re over 35)!”  I thought to myself “What?” The brightest minds in the world who steer the course of the jaw-dropping  future innovations have the same concerns over aging and join the crazy race to freeze time and look younger! More peculiar and mind blowing is the lawsuit filed by a grumpy 69-year old man to change his age to 49. “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?” he said. The man lost his job and is tirelessly seeking a new one, but unfortunately suffering a blatant age discrimination. Although his lawsuit was turned down, the “old’ man is still fighting for the cause!   

Why are we afraid of aging?  

As birthday is around the corner, many people find themselves not that excited about birthdays anymore. They can’t help but to panic, as years go by so fast. Time flies as we get older. Most probably, birthdays remind them that life is really too short and they have not achieved that much.

Picture: Liam Norris/Getty

Glorifying youthfulness

Another major reason is that aging itself is a scary concept. We live in a world that glorifies youthfulness. Media and everything around us encourage us to peruse  looking younger than we are. It has become an indication of success to look younger, which might justify why Silicon Valley talents seek facelifts at the age of 35. We spend billions of dollars on anti-aging products every year. Cosmetic surgeries have become a lucrative industry in many countries. Forever young is a deeply-rooted desire in many of us. We think that getting older would make us less attractive which, in turn, would make us less desired by the superficial standards of society and entrepreneurship . In other words, we are likely victims to age discrimination;  employers usually shun older job hunters. This might explain why the 69-year old man wants to push his age twenty years back to increase his employability chances. 

The FaceApp craze 

Few months ago, an app called FaceApp took the world by storm; people, using it, posted photos of themselves of what they will look like when they get older, mostly for fun.  Similar apps were also in vogue at the time. The concept of face or image becomes so much frenzied for most people; they become slaves of ‘image.’ The filtering (or the deception) process helps us project the favorable self image, in a bid to be more lovable and influential. Thus, it is all about looking young and vital. 

Source: Internet

The most mysterious event

The deepest fear of getting old is dying. Death, though inevitable, is the most mysterious event in the known world. Today’s world doesn’t care about death as it cares about life. But imagine we became eternal, would we be better off?  Think of it! Think of a person suffering from hardships or battling adversity. This temporal life is not created to last forever. Aging also provokes a sense of abandonment and illness; we are afraid to spend our last days alone, weak and sad. We see the cognitive problems old people with dementia or Alzheimer’s undergo as they do not remember  their names or families. Surveys show that a considerable number of old informants “are more afraid of losing their independence in old age and being forced to into a nursing home than they are of dying.”  

Can we change our mindsets towards aging?  

Enough with the depressing words! Aging is a part of our lives. Can we change our mindsets towards aging?  It is a very tough question. It is up to you to feel positive about anything in life, including aging. First, we have to own a sense of gratitude to be alive and able to enjoy life. To wake up and be immersed in grace everyday is enough to make you feel at peace with life. Being useful would vanish the feelings  of emptiness we experience when we get older. Speak your truth, be brave to be who you really want and work hard with whatever would make you feel a sense of accomplishment that would bring happiness into your life.

Lastly, we need to love ourselves, to enjoy the process of growing and accepting it. Older is wiser, so we have to embrace what we have been through and what we have to become. Realizing that life is an ongoing process of learning and every age has its beauty is the key . If we shift our mindsets to be grateful, life would be so much satisfying.

[Photo: HowcastCareStyle / YouTube ]

When hearts are softened

It always came to my mind a bizarre metaphor that likens hearts to garments;  when new, it is very tough to remove stains from them, but as time goes on, they soften  and knocking off stains becomes much easier. Time is the fire in which our stains burn and vanish. Time heals. It grows flowers of tolerance, love and peace in our hearts and minds to make them more embracing to others, and find out a new beginning. Do you remember the so many chores you used to be fed up with when you were young such as reading, visiting families around the corner, and helping community, which you enjoy now?  Let’s look on the bright side. 

Stay positive to stay young!

Finally, it is true that we all love to look younger, more energetic and more in tune with younger generations. This ignites our wild imagination. Yet, aging is a multi-dimensional concept. One of them is psychological. Stay positive to stay young!

Dr Laila Abdel Aal Alghalban
Professor of linguistics
Faculty of Arts, Kafrelsheikh University

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