“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain
Aging is Inevitable
One element of life that is guaranteed for each and every one of us is that of continuous aging and death. No matter who you are, where you are from, or what you do in your life you are going to experience aging. While there are certainly things one can do to slow the aging process, there is nothing one can do to mitigate aging and the things that aging brings. Therefore, instead of trying to stop aging, it is best to try to embrace aging and understand the stressors that aging can bring in order to cope with them.
The Aging Process
As we age, there are many different facets that change in our lives. These changes are different as we approach different developmental periods of our life. For example, when we are children we age into adolescents and come into our teenage years. This brings about many changes in our bodies and brains, namely puberty.
When humans age into adulthood, the bodily changes may not be as extreme as when we transition from children to adolescence, but our position in society may drastically change as we go from being in school, to being expected to contribute to society. As we age in adulthood, we may experience greater changes in our bodies again. As our bodies age, and as we get increasingly older, it may be harder to recover as we once did, and our bodies may not repair from damage nearly as well.
There are also cognitive difficulties that may be acquired through the aging process. As we get into later adulthood we may not feel as “sharp” or as “quick”. This is a typical experience that older adults may have, not having the memory of mental faculties that they once did when they were younger.
Altogether, all through the lifespan, there are changes that will occur as we age. Some of the changes in the lifespan are helpful and positive, while some can be seen as detrimental and negative. Regardless of whether the changes are positive or negative, they all can be accompanied by stress.
Stresses of Aging
Aging can cause stress. It can be stressful just thinking about the fact that we are getting older! There are both physical as well as emotional stressors of aging that can impact people in different ways. Some people will experience more physical than emotional stressors, while for some the reverse will be true. Other people may feel equal levels of physical and emotional stressors.
Both of these types of stressors can be equally as distressing and must be considered in order to adequately cope. We now turn to describe some of these stressors that may be frequently experienced as individuals age.
Physical Stressors of Aging
There are numerous physical stressors that come from getting older. These are often the stressors that are most associated with the aging process. As previously mentioned, one’s mental faculties are often compromised as one gets increasingly older. Another stressor that accompanies the aging process is that of physical decline.
Individuals do not recover as well when they age. For example, injuries or illnesses that one used to be able to bounce back quickly from, may now take much longer to recover from as one gets older. Muscle mass decreases as individuals age, thus causing a decrease in strength. Being weaker than one once was is stressful on the body, especially when trying to keep up the same activity levels.
Emotional Stressors of Aging
In addition to the physical aspects of aging, there are also emotional stressors associated with the aging process. It can be disheartening to not have the same mental functioning that one previously had. Struggling with one’s memory can be frustrating and a major emotional stretcher. It can get depressing when one can’t perform the same duties as they could previously.
Another emotional stressor that often accompanies the aging process is caused by the idea of death. When we get older, we often think more about our place in the world and how our life in finite. We may think about, or even dwell on, the fact that our death is guaranteed and impending. Death anxiety can impact our lives in many ways and may contribute to deterioration of our mental well-being.
Coping with the Stressors of Aging
It is important to remember that no matter what one does, they cannot avoid getting older. Attempting to fight or deny the aging process can cause more problems than aging itself. Instead, embracing and accepting the fact that one is getting older can go a long way in combating the stressors that may accompany the aging process.
Taking steps to keep one’s health intact – both physically and emotionally – can help one cope with stressors that come from aging. Exercise goes an extremely long way to keep one’s body and mind as sharp as possible. It is important to keep a good diet, stay physically and mentally active, and to be honest about one’s needs as one increases in age to help cope with getting older.