Fear of getting old (FoGO) is a common experience that many of us will face at some point in our lives. Perhaps you’ve noticed your parents getting older, or maybe you’ve started to notice small health issues in yourself. Whatever the trigger may be, the idea of getting older can be a daunting prospect. This fear is known as “Ageing Anxiety” or “Fear of Getting Old” (FOGO), and it is a normal response to the inevitable process of ageing.
People can experience a range of anxieties related to getting old, including the fear of physical decline, loss of independence, social isolation, and death. These anxieties can be intensified by negative societal attitudes towards aging, such as the idea that aging is a decline in quality of life or that older people are less valuable or competent.
Psychotherapy can help individuals work through these anxieties in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. A therapist can help clients identify the specific fears and concerns they have about aging and develop coping strategies to address them.
Understanding Ageing Anxiety
As we age, we face a range of changes and challenges that can trigger anxiety and fear. Some common things that people worry about when they think about getting old include:
Physical changes: As people age, they may experience physical changes such as wrinkles, grey hair, and age-related health issues. These changes can serve as a reminder of mortality and trigger anxiety about aging.
Social changes: Older adults may experience changes in their social networks, such as the loss of friends and family members or retirement from work. These changes can trigger feelings of social isolation and a loss of purpose.
Cognitive changes: Older adults may experience cognitive changes such as memory decline, which can be concerning and lead to anxiety about aging.
Cultural attitudes: Societal attitudes towards aging can also trigger FOGO. Negative stereotypes about older adults, such as the belief that they are less valuable or less capable, can lead to feelings of anxiety and fear.
As people age, they may begin to think about a variety of things, including:
Mortality: Aging can remind individuals of their own mortality and the fact that their time on earth is limited.
Independence: Older adults may worry about losing their independence and becoming dependent on others for care.
Legacy: Individuals may start to think about the legacy they want to leave behind, including their impact on family, community, and society.
Finances: As retirement approaches, individuals may worry about their financial security and ability to support themselves.
Health: As individuals age, they may worry about their health and the potential for age-related illnesses.
These are just a few examples, but the specific concerns and fears that people have about aging can vary widely depending on their individual experiences and circumstances.
It’s important to recognise that these fears are valid and normal, but they don’t have to control your life. There are ways to manage and alleviate these anxieties.
Is it only older individuals that suffer from FoGO?
There is no set age or specific trigger for when people start to think about FOGO. For some individuals, the awareness of ageing and the associated fears may start in early adulthood, while for others, it may not emerge until later in life.
Certain life events and circumstances can serve as triggers for FOGO. For example, witnessing the aging process in parents or loved ones may lead to an increased awareness of the aging process and trigger anxiety about one’s own ageing. Other triggers may include experiencing a significant health issue or being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
Making a will or other end-of-life planning can also be a trigger for FOGO. This process involves considering mortality and the inevitable ageing process, which can bring up feelings of anxiety and fear.
Additionally, major life changes such as retirement, children leaving the home, or a significant career change can lead to an increased awareness of ageing and trigger FOGO.
Overall, the triggers for FOGO can vary widely and may be influenced by a variety of factors such as personal experiences, societal attitudes, and cultural expectations. It’s important to remember that experiencing anxiety about ageing is normal and seeking support from a therapist can be helpful in coping with these feelings.
How Psychotherapy or Counselling can help you cope with Ageing Anxiety
Psychotherapy or counselling can provide a safe space to talk through your fears and concerns about ageing. Therapy can help you to understand and manage your anxiety, and develop coping strategies to help you to both live in the moment and view ageing with more hope and contentment.
Types of Therapy for Fear of Getting Old
There are many different types of therapy that can be helpful for ageing anxiety, including:
CBT for fears and anxiety about ageing
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help clients challenge negative beliefs and attitudes about ageing and develop more positive and realistic ways of thinking. Mindfulness-based interventions can also help clients learn to be more present-focused and accepting of the changes that come with ageing.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful in addressing FOGO by identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to anxiety and fear.
Existential therapy for coping with thoughts of getting old and the purpose of life
Existential therapy can be an effective approach for you if you are struggling with fear of ageing and FOGO because it focuses on exploring your own unique experience of being in the world and finding meaning and purpose in life.
Existential therapy recognises that the experience of ageing is a universal human condition, and helps you to confront and accept your own mortality. This approach can help you to find ways to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, even in the face of the uncertainty and limitations that come with ageing.
Humanistic therapy for coming to terms with the ageing process
Humanistic therapy, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of self-awareness, self-exploration, and personal growth. This approach can be particularly helpful for individuals dealing with FOGO, as it encourages individuals to explore their own experiences and values, and to find ways to live a fulfilling life, even in the face of ageing and mortality.
Humanistic therapy can be helpful in addressing FOGO by encouraging individuals to explore their own experiences and values, and to find ways to live a fulfilling life, even in the face of ageing and mortality.
Psychodynamic therapy for fears around the ageing process and past experience
Psychodynamic therapy can help individuals explore and understand the unconscious motivations and conflicts that underlie their fears of ageing. This approach emphasizes the importance of examining past experiences and relationships that may be contributing to current anxieties about ageing. By gaining insight into these underlying factors, individuals can develop strategies for coping with their fears and anxiety.
Psychodynamic therapy can be helpful in addressing FOGO by exploring past experiences and relationships that may be contributing to current anxieties about ageing.
Finding help for your fear of getting old
If you’re struggling with negative thoughts and anxiety about ageing, you don’t have to go through it alone. The therapists at City Therapy Rooms are here to support you. Browse our profiles to find a therapist who can help you work through your fears and anxieties, and face ageing with a positive outlook.
© Brian Cotsen