I’m scared of a lot of things. Some fears are pretty typical: rapists, murders, cancer, car accidents and family/friends dying (I know, I know, I’ve watched too many episodes of Law and Order SVU). But I also have less “normal” fears – one of them is getting old. I’m not talking about turning 40, 50 or even 60. I’m not talking about getting old in the conventional sense. This has nothing to do with age, vanity, or mid-life crises. I’m talking about getting REALLY old. The kind of old where people stop noticing you. Stop paying attention to you. Where you are widowed, lonely, helpless. Incompetent. Obsolete. Alone.
I think about it constantly. Every time I see an old man or woman alone riding the bus, or buying groceries, I am reminded that this could someday be my fate and that it is the reality of so many people. It tugs at my heart and leaves me feeling worried. I ponder their bleak options. 1) Stay alone in their home which they can’t manage anymore. 2) Move in with one of their children where they constantly feel like a burden and disruption. 3) Move into a retirement home/assisted living facility where they are placated like a child and herded like a cow. None of these options sounds good.
I’m scared of being old and taken advantage of. Of feeling lost and confused. Of being lonely. And of losing my ability to care for myself. How do the elderly cope with this? I think it’s more than I could handle.
Sometimes I think about volunteering at a retirement or nursing home – but I always talk myself out of it. I’m afraid I’ll confirm my worst fear – that life plateaus and eventually starts going downhill.