Why I Am Frightened of Getting Old

I like getting older. Age brings simplification; a channeling of the raging torrent into an essential trickle. I enjoy the clarity that this narrowing-down brings.

But I am also mortally afraid of getting old. I am afraid that I will stop appreciating the intricate workings of the world around me. I am terrified of losing the ability to see from a divergent perspective and to catch on to change. I am scared of no longer being surprised.




  1. I use to feel the same way, but I see it differently now, thanks to my dad. When I began feeling old and worried, as you do, I asked my Dad if his brain had ever slowed down, if he felt he had calmed and mellowed as the years passed, if he ever lost that . . . longing. I am like him in that way – a million ideas, a billion passions – just going, doing, learning all the time. He said no, not his mind, just his body.

    My dad liked to build street rods – some call them hot rods. Dozens and dozens of incredible and beautiful cars went through his garage over the years. He said he never stopped thinking about them, and I know he never stopped working on them. Most important of all, though, is that he never stopped planning the next one, reflecting on the last one and how it could have been better, how he could use what he had learned to improve the present one.

    He had just sold a car and left a Willy’s Jeep half finished when he passed away – a couple of wrenches and a pile of bolts still sitting in a hubcap on the hood. He was already planning his next car, the one after the Willy’s.

    He would head outside in the morning, using a walker to get down the steps, then into a battery-powered scooter to get down the rocky path, and finally into a wheelchair to move around the garage. Several times a day, he would heave himself out of that wheelchair and roll onto the ground to work under a car, then back up into the chair. It was excruciating to watch. He said there were times it would take him a whole day to change a bolt, but he never stopped wanting to do it.
    Cars were dad’s magic. He never stopped reading about them, talking to experts, trying new things – he never stopped learning.

    Like you, I used to worry about losing my passion for life, but my Dad taught me that our minds remain free, even if our bodies may not always cooperate. So if losing your ability to love and appreciate the small things in the world around you is your fear, I think you can let it go. Only a few people are ever blessed with that ability, but once you have it, it never goes away.


  2. I am old. At least that’s what I’m told by the culture. Somehow I just feel like me.
    Those stereotypes about fear of change and dulling of ability to think and feel haunt around as best they can but they haven’t actually happened.

    Surprise and delight continue. New ideas and diversity are easier to accept because I have found out I can’t know everything and so I have to be good at learning.


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