As we grow older the inevitability of Death can cripple us with fear. Learning to change our mindset can reduce this anxiety.
The vulnerability of ageing.
While some people die young, many of us only start to confront our mortality in old age. “The elderly are some of the most vulnerable in society” asserts Mohube Maswi a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist. This is because the elderly struggle with anxiety, feelings of loneliness, isolation, physical disabilities and pain in their senior years she explains. “Reduced financial and physical independence, decline in memory and chronic illnesses are also challenges that many older people struggle with” she adds.
In addition seniors can suffer the loss of multiple loved ones such as spouses, family members and friends. “I have buried 2 wives and most loved ones my age have already passed on” confides Tony Lamb (89) a retired geologist from KwaZulu-Natal. “It gets lonely when people you love die before you.” These feelings are common among the elderly and their level of anxiety may be exacerbated by thought of death and dying, explains Maswi. Having constant thought of death and dying may contribute toward feelings of frustration and emptiness. “and when a person becomes consumed by thought of death this will likely contribute toward the irrational fear of dying known as “death anxiety”,” she adds. “This fear then has a negative impact on an individuals quality of life.” So how can one accept mortality, evade fear and loneliness and still enjoy a fulfilling life?
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Embracing the inevitable
“Our society often views conversations about dying as taboo, which can make it difficult for people to acknowledge thoughts and fears they have about their own mortality” explains Maswi. she recommends engaging in conversations about mortality to help diminish fear and create awareness that you are not the only one going through this.
“Embracing spirituality may also assist in establishing a positive perception of death and the afterlife which can help decrease anxiety associated with thoughts of death and dying.” It is also never too late to begin working with a trained therapist if you are experiencing difficulty accepting ageing and mortality, she adds.
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Ways to find meaning and fulfillment every day
As we grow older, the inevitability of death can cripple us with fear. Learning to change our mindset can reduce this anxiety. Follow these lifestyle tips for a more meaningful life.
Get (and stay) active
Researchers have found that remaining active socially and physically and focusing on the present can greatly enhance feelings of wellbeing, optimism and overall life satisfaction. For instance, experts agree that maintaining a good social life helps combat feelings of loneliness and isolation in the later years.
“Remaining active in my community keeps me engaged and allows me to enjoy the here and now and not fret too much about what’s to come,” shares Sharon Roets (66), a retired high school teacher from Johannesburg.
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Stay healthy – inside and out
Mohube Maswi, a Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist adds that maintaining good health (with a nourishing diet, exercise and regular medical check-ups) has a major impact on your psychological wellbeing and longevity. Enjoying regular meditation can also help to ground you, create calm and reduce stress -related physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, chronic pain and insomnia, she says.
Dealing with death is never easy, but the realisation that life is finite can inspire you to really make the most of the years that you have left. “I don’t think too much about the past or worry about dying,” shares David Mahada (75), an ex-factory manager from Pretoria. “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t here and the only thing I have is today,” he explains. “It’s up to me to make the most of it.”
Try these wellness suggestions
• Join your local Park Run, a free neighbourhood social walking/running club for all ages
• Find a bowling club in your area
• Take part in bingo or quiz nights to keep the mind active
• Download a free meditation app like Calm or Headspace
• Visit a Clicks Clinic for your regular check ups
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(Original article appeared in the Clicks club card Issue 6/2022 written by Julia Lamberti-Morreira. Click here to read the issue. As well as on the clicks website which can be read here)
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