As the death positive movement and similar trends show us, you can overcome worries about fear of aging and death.
Jump ahead to these sections:
Remind yourself of how many things actually get better with time or age. The notion that “old” always equals “bad” doesn’t genuinely hold up to scrutiny.
Consider the following examples of things that get better with time.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first! True, individual tech devices may not get better with age, but over time, the innovations that allow such devices to exist certainly become more and more powerful.
Technological improvements don’t just add convenience to our daily lives. For instance, in the medical field, new technologies serve as literal life-savers.
2. Many Foods and Drinks
Food expiration dates exist for a reason. When many foods reach a certain age, they don’t merely lose their flavor. You can actually get sick from consuming them!
However, if you’ve heard the phrase “ages like a fine wine,” you likely already understand that wine often gets better as it gets older. What you might not know is that the same can be said for many types of cheese, such as cheddar and gouda. The dry-aging process can also allow beef to get better with time.
That said, many factors can influence whether a certain food gets better with time or goes bad. Don’t assume you can ignore an expiration date on a package of cheddar cheese from now on! If an item’s packaging warns you not to eat it after a certain date, don’t.
In general, research shows that most people do tend to feel more confident in themselves as they get older. It’s easy to understand why. The older we get, the more comfortable and familiar we become with our own strengths. Additionally, the longer we’re alive, the more time we have to develop new skills. It’s natural for self-confidence to get better with time.
That said, research shows that self-confidence and self-esteem tend to peak in our 60s. It can decline slightly when we reach the age where we no longer feel as useful as we might have when we had more responsibilities. Luckily, research also shows that if a person prepares for old age accordingly, he may avoid this decline in self-confidence.
Like food, clothing’s quality typically declines with age. However, many find that leather gets better with time. They feel aged leather is more aesthetically appealing than new leather. Additionally, over time, leather becomes softer and more malleable.
Of course, personal taste becomes a factor. Some may still prefer new leather over old. That said, fashion experts and similar professionals believe that aged leather ranks higher over new.
5. Fear of Death
Again, fear of aging and fear of death go hand-in-hand. Research shows that older adults tend to have less fear of death than middle-aged and young adults.
That’s not to say you should simply hope your fear of death will go away if you merely wait to get older. If death anxiety interferes with your enjoyment of life, you can take steps to counter it now, such as openly asking questions about death instead of avoiding the topic entirely. Many find that their death anxiety lessens as they become more comfortable talking about their own eventual demise.
Get our free checklist for navigating loss 💙
Enter your email to get your free roadmap for the steps after loss in your inbox.
Researchers have found that the average older adult feels happier than people in their twenties. This may have to do with how we learn to handle some of life’s stresses as we age. For example, when you’re young and competitive, you may feel more down when a peer outperforms you in some way. According to surveys and studies, those types of feelings tend to show less prominence in older people.
Researchers have also found that, when shown a series of positive, negative, and neutral images, older adults show particular skill when it comes to remembering the details of positive images. This suggests that older adults have learned over time that focusing on the negative can lead to depression and other unwanted feelings. Their brains have essentially developed “filters” that catch the positive while letting the negative slip through.
Such findings indicate that just as talking about death can help us overcome death anxiety, taking similar steps (such as reading books on aging) can also help us come to terms with the aging process. As it turns out, there’s a lot to look forward to as we get older!
Research shows that empathy tends to improve over time. The longer we’re alive, the more we learn to appreciate the struggles of others, instead of focusing purely on ourselves.
We tend to assume that memory naturally gets worse as we get older. It’s true that older adults may more likely develop medical conditions that negatively affect memory. However, if people don’t develop such a condition, there’s a good chance their “semantic memory” (the ability to remember general facts or concepts that have no relation to specific life experiences) will improve.
Many older adults can work to maintain and strengthen their memory before a decline sets in. This gives them an advantage over younger adults who may not proactively strive to improve their memory.
In general, if a friendship, romantic relationship, or relationship with a family member has natural strength (and both parties put in the effort), it can grow even stronger over time.
Quite simply, the better you know someone, the more you can navigate a relationship with that person skillfully and confidently. True, you can face ups and downs, but if you commit to making a relationship work, you’ll find it can improve with time.
On the topic of relationships, it’s also worth noting that researchers have found that, contrary to what most people might expect, older adults often report greater sexual satisfaction than middle-aged adults.
Researchers believe this may be due to older adults feeling less insecure and more willing to express their sexuality freely, without anxiety. They may also become more familiar with their own sexual preferences and better understand what does and does not bring them sexual pleasure.
10. Decision-Making Skills
We learn to make better decisions by simply learning from past experiences. To use a very basic example, the more experience you have with cooking, the easier it will be for you to make decisions in the kitchen without a recipe.
It seems this principle applies in other areas of life. The older you get, the more experiences you can draw on and refer to when you have to make a difficult decision.
11. Practical Life Skills
Although society’s obsession with youth tells us that being old is generally “worse” than being young, it’s worth remembering that the phrase “dumb kid” came about for a reason.
It’s not that children or young adults actually fit that description. However, many practical life skills develop over time. For instance, it’s not uncommon for young adults to make more ill-informed personal finance decisions compared to older adults.
That’s just one example. Generally, practical life skills develop as a result of experience. Thus, the more experiences you’ve had, the more “training” you’ve had, so to speak.
The assumption that our health gets worse as we get older deserves more scrutiny than it often receives. Yes, in some ways, older people face a greater risk of experiencing various health maladies. However, research has also shown that older adults tend to resist basic colds, flu, and other viruses.
In general, the more pathogens our bodies encounter over time, the stronger our immune systems become. The immune system of an older adult may be better equipped to fight off certain illnesses.
Getting Better With Time: Age Isn’t All Bad!
Whether you have a minor existential crisis and wondering what happens when you die (or at least get closer to death) or you simply want to know about the positive benefits of time and age, these examples may help you remember that getting old isn’t as bad as you may think.
- Barth, F. Diane. “Some Things Get Better With Age.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers LLC, 26 February 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201502/some-things-get-better-age
- Gorvett, Zaria. “The benefits of getting older.” BBC, BBC, 29 October 2015, www.bbc.com/future/article/20151028-the-benefits-of-getting-older
- Greenwood, Chelsea. “8 foods and drinks that get better with age.” Insider, Insider, Inc. 29 January 2019, www.insider.com/foods-that-get-better-with-age-2019-1#flavors-of-umami-emerge-in-cheeses-like-gouda-and-cheddar-when-theyre-allowed-to-age-3
- Jong, Jonathan. “Five surprising findings about death and dying.” The Conversation, The Conversation US, Inc., 8 December 2015, theconversation.com/five-surprising-findings-about-death-and-dying
- “Memory and Aging.” American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/pi/aging/memory-and-aging.pdf
- Oaklander, Mandy. “Old People Are Happier Than People In Their 20s.” Time, Time, Inc., 24 August 2016, time.com/4464811/aging-happiness-stress-anxiety-depression/
- Orth, Ulrich. “Development of Self-Esteem From Age 4 to 94 Years: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies.” Psychological Bulletin, American Psychological Association, 2018, psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2018-33338-001.html
- Stephens, Robert. “How Does Age Impact Your Ability to Make Decisions?” UCF Today, University of Central Florida, 20 April 2018, www.ucf.edu/news/how-your-age-can-impact-your-ability-to-make-decisions/