5 stages of grief applied to aging

With each day that passes, our population is aging as it always has nothing new, no surprise there. However the magnitude of those entering the ranks of senior citizens is truly impressive. With 10,000 of us reaching the age of 65 each day, by the year 2030 for the first time there will be more over the age of 65 than under the age of 17. A tsunami of gray haired baby boomers is just starting to hit the shoreline which for the next 20 years will show no sign of letting up.

This monstrous wave of retirees-to-be cannot be escaped by simply heading for the hills. The entire world is being impacted and none more so than those individuals who are now entering and populating the ranks of the 65-and-older crowd. We baby boomers are not known for merely taking life at face value – we want to have our unique say – and I think it is safe to say that accepting aging will be no different.

Recently, I was reading an article on the 5 stages of grief when I realized that this model was directly applicable to what boomers and members of our aging population may go through as we come to grips with our inevitable aging. Since recognizing where you are today and having some insight into what lays ahead may be helpful in navigating the retirement jungle,  I took a trip through this model to create a 5 stages of aging analogy.

Where do you think you might be today?

Denial – how can I be getting old? Just yesterday I was graduating college with the world at my feet, nothing too impossible, dreams just waiting to be realized. Sure some years have passed since then but old? Not me. It just doesn’t make any sense. It cannot be – I won’t let it!

Anger – screw this! I don’t deserve to have to endure the weight of the years, the aches and pains, the challenges faced in what were once basic, simple endeavors. It’s not fair and I am mad as heck.

Bargaining – I am going to work out four days a week and eat only healthy food. I am going to get my rest, avoid stress, see my doctor on a regular basis, and give up drinking. I am willing to do all of this in the hopes that I can delay my aging. Okay? Will that work? I am committed to doing whatever it takes. Surely I can beat this thing.

Depression – there is no avoiding it, there is nothing I can do, I am doomed.

Acceptance – although I am aging with potential physical and mental challenges waiting around every corner, I am still alive. I can experience a good quality of life living within my limitations. So I will no longer be the fastest on the tennis court or able to bench press twice my body weight – I accept that. What I can do is live my life as it is to the fullest possible extent. I have learned wisdom with age and will gladly share my worldly knowledge with those seeking my advice. I appreciate the beauty of a song, can revel in the wonder of a sunset, marvel at the excitement a baby shows experiencing life’s moments for the first time, genuinely share the pain felt in the loss of a loved one, and appreciate my spouse for each and every detail, quirk, and habit that have been such a vital part of my life. I accept me for who I am. Old age – bring it on!

Getting old is not for sissies. But we are not the first nor will we be the last to negotiate the journey. Knowing that we are in a particular stage in a progression may give us hope as surviving each elevates us to the next, eventually ending with our acceptance of life as it is.

Not everyone over 65 is in stage five and some may never get there. But a quitter never wins and a winner never quits.

Whatever stage you are currently in, hang in there and have a little faith that things will get better. You have made it this far.

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

5 thoughts on “5 stages of grief applied to aging

  1. Very clever to apply the well known stages of grieving to the aging process. Explained that way, you are exactly right.

    I remember from a college course that not everyone goes through them, and not everyone goes through them in that order. It is also quite normal to move “forward” one stage and then have a life event knock you back a stage or two.

    We are all on our own uniaue journey.

    • It would be nice if we could all count on these steps one after another in our journey. But as you say, the order may vary, some steps may be skipped, and some may be repeated. Only time will tell…

  2. This is probably a very good analogy to how we deal with aging but I think there is another step. This step is- I’m not going down easy.
    I accept the inevitable but I plan to fight it for all it is worth with whatever I have/ No giving up or accepting that today needs to be any worse than yesterday. Maybe I’m just a fool but I won’t waste time feeling sorry for myself.

  3. I guess acceptance of thiings we can not control from happening such as the passing of a love one and the grief that it brings, comes with age. We get more open minded to the things that will happen sooner or later.

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