Why are we so afraid of growing old?

Every decade brings a lot of apprehensions and anxieties, but in today's big "scramble of ages" we can all feel old - or young - depending on the days and circumstances.

Claude Vox

Clinging to youth is not only a concern of futile and neurotic ego. This anxiety is also the result of the very functioning of our individualistic, utilitarian society, where each tends to exist only through its performance and its value on the market of seduction. In the dominant discourse, old age is almost always evoked in terms of uselessness, loss and decay. To no longer please, to be a little less efficient, is to run the risk of having no more room, of being excluded from the labor market or that of love. It is to be symbolically doomed to disappear.

So, if we are not young, we try to look it. Otherwise to please us, at least for others. To preserve as long as possible the presence of desire, an interest in their eyes.

Because the social codes have changed

According to a CSA survey (" Ten key figures to better understand the French "), it is towards 68 years that the feeling of to be old takes hold of us . Without the respondents being able to clearly justify their answer.

"In past centuries, to determine the age groups, we had objective criteria, explains in substance Jerome Pellissier, researcher in psychogerontology, in" Reflections on the age of old age ": ability to work or wage war for men, reproductive capacity for women. " Everyone knew where his place was. Nothing like it in the age of "scrambling ages", to use the expression of the philosopher Pierre-Henri Tavoillot, author of Make or not to make his age (Aube).

Childhood leads to an earlier and earlier adolescence. Psychoanalysts note that the phase of latency, of silence of the impulses, which lasted from about 7 years to 11-12 years, is often replaced by an early prepuberty. Later, we access our first CDI around 30 years old. But for the company, at 45, we are seniors. And the fact is that, already, the youngest ones, with the new blood they bring, confront us with our limits and push us towards the exit. No time to breathe. As soon as we have gained experience and know-how, we are invited to think about retirement.

"Thanks to advances in medicine, life expectancy is currently 80 years on average for both sexes.So we are socially old more and more early and biologically old more and more later, "says Jerome Pellissier.This distortion between real and symbolic produces a psychological anxiety: fear of old age begins to torment us before our body does not feel the effects And this fear is often worse than old age itself

Because we make balance sheets

In terms of aging, each decade has its worries. Towards the thirties

, for women, it is the observation that the biological clock is turning and that it becomes urgent to establish a serious affective relationship, to found a family. Quarantine

propels us into the crisis of the environment: it pushes us to take stock, to question our choices and the means to implement to rectify the shot.Fear to die is not at the top of the list of our anxieties: seeing the horizon of possibilities shrinks ir, we are especially afraid to miss the second half of our life. At age 50

, the body begins to change, menopause looms, and with it the end of a possible motherhood. A few decades ago, a man in his 50s did not wonder about his place in the world: once his children were brought up, she joined the respected clan of the matrons. On the other hand, the fifty-year-olds of today wonder, anxious - especially if they are alone - if they must give up love, an emotional bond. But a man in his fifties can also feel young for the first time in his life because she (he) has finally learned to take advantage of it. At 60

, we are in shape, but we are beginning to worry about old age and its corollaries, illness, disability. Especially since we discovered them at our parents' house. If the fear of dependence - to be delivered, helpless, to unselected beings, to doctors, to nurses - is so present in us, it is because we have experienced it in the beginning of our lives. When we were passive infants only existing through the goodwill of others. But it is also an objective reality: the elderly are treated as irresponsible children.


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