Are You Gerascophobic?

Oh good….now that I’ve got your attention I’ll begin.

Ahem…..

I’ve just finished reading ‘How To Stop Time’ by Matt Haig which I highly recommend to you all. Haig writes a lot on mental health issues but is also an acclaimed novelist. The book tells the tale of Tom Hazard, who on the surface is a very ordinary forty something History teacher leading a very ordinary life in London. Except he isn’t. Tom has an incredible secret. He is almost 500 years old.

Tom was born in 16th Century France and stopped ageing at 13 years old. Well, I say stopped but that’s not strictly true. He does age, only much more slowly than you or I. For every 10 years we age, he ages one. When he’s 300, he looks around 30, and so on. He has lived numerous lives around the globe, always staying one step ahead of suspicion and rumours regarding his youthful appearance.

Tom’s longevity means he plays the lute at the Globe Theatre when hired by William Shakespeare. He discover new lands as part of Captain Cook’s crew and parties in Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald. He never gets ill and doesn’t have to worry about grey hairs or wrinkles. He is immune to the toll that time takes on the rest of us. He is invincible, untouchable, the nearest thing to a superhuman on the planet.

This sounds like an incredible existence except, again, it isn’t. Tom is something of a social pariah, a fugitive from society. His mother is drowned by witch hunters who suspect she has cast a spell on her son. The love of his life ages and then succumbs to the plague in Elizabethan London. He is unable to form meaningful relationships or become close to anyone. His life is a lie, a lonely lie.

The fear of growing old is called gerascophobia, derived from the Greeks words ‘gerasko’ (to grow old) and ‘phobia’ (fear). I googled that, in case you think I’m a smarty pants. But I’m glad there’s a recognised term for the condition, as I think I may suffer from it. Increasingly so, of late. I constantly feel as if my ship has sailed and I’m running out of time. It’s frustrating and more than a little frightening.

I’m 48 years old. I like to think a young 48, both physically and mentally. People tell me I don’t look my age, whatever that means. I’ve a full head of hair and (most) of my own teeth. I’m fitter than I was when I was 18, or at least was until perpetual illness plagued me since Christmas. That has put the marathon training on hold and I’ve consoled myself at the biscuit barrel.

I don’t want to be Tom Hazard. He has centuries of old age to not look forward to, but if someone offered to rewind the last 10-15 years or so, I’d more than likely jump at the chance. Or would I? Yes, I would relive those years very differently but then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And for one who fears the sands of time then why do I continue to wish my life away when it comes to so many aspects of it?

Nobody in the history of mankind has lived a perfect life. We all have made mistakes, carry regrets and eye the future with trepidation. What lies ahead? Is it all downhill from here. We fret over our futures, and ponder over our pasts. In doing so, we forget the most important time of all. The present. For that is where we are and that is where life is lived. Live in the present. The future can wait.

Are you afraid of growing old?

Would you like to live a life like Tom Hazard?

Where is your present?

43 thoughts on “Are You Gerascophobic?

Add yours

  1. good point… an interesting lecture
    thank you
    yet, always will be a contradiction
    it’s important how we’ll grow old, but
    for our mind is enough to hear or read a story,
    and imagination flies… and flies…
    then any scenario may bring even anxiety
    with or without our will… depends how strong we are

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  2. I don’t know why, but I’ve never had a fear of aging. I’ve always been acutely award of the fact that I’m going to die, though, so I always try to make sure I’m living the life I really want to live or at least am working towards that. After several years of having to put my aging parents first, I’m back to living my own life again. I’m almost 59 now and my life and my career could not be more exciting to me. We never know what’s around the corner but some of it is always going to be good!

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  3. I think youth is a feeling, an attitude. That being said, I am also pretty vain. I want to look youthful and be healthy for as long as possible. That means eating right (most of the time), lots of water, slapping on various anti-aging miracle creams and all other sorts of crazy stuff like running! What I fear is regret. Living a life with regret. Or simply existing.

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  4. People ask if I’d ever want to be 25 years old again. My answer, “Not only No, but Hell No!” I went through too much hassle to get this old. I can still do the things I did back then. If I were to be able to anything, I’d want access to a Time Machine (the one from Back to the Future, I mean if you;’re going to travel through time, be cool about it), go back and slap some sense into my younger self. I’d have told myself that you’re letting the wants and desires of others dictate your life. Go to OCS, write that book when you’re 40, and go find that lady in Del Norte and see if she’ll marry 8 years before you ever meet her and changed your life forever.
    I agree, age doesn’t bother me. It’s just an entry on the calendar. What does bother me is all those years I can’t reclaim. The best I can do is redeem them now.

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  5. I’m embracing growing old and praying I can grow old gracefully. I’ll be 45 in March, and honestly I just don’t care as much as I used to about what does and does not sag. Haha! I do hope my body doesn’t outlive my mind, though.

    That book sounds interesting… reminds me of one I read to the kids when they were younger and we homeschooled called “Tuck Everlasting.” It’s a very small book but deals with a family like that who never age. It was really a very sad book…

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  6. I am not the least little bit afraid of growing old. I might be afraid of being in pain when I’m old, but I’m looking forward to the adventure of being old. I know it will be painful if I get to be really old, as I watch my peers die one after another. But I’m not afraid of death for myself. I’m not afraid of grieving either. Grieving comes with loving. It is the natural part of the process.

    I would not want to live out of sync with my peers and my people. I want to be able to grow old with my friends and family. I would not willingly take on a life where I could be in different centuries if it meant I could not share my life in a real way with those I love. It’s hard not to be lonely and life anyway. I don’t need to make it worse by being disconnected that way.

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  7. Since I will be 71 in April I am not afraid of growing old. I am old. I never had a problem with turning 40 or 50 or 60 but when I turned 70 I did have a few moments of feeling “this is it. I’m now old.” At first I was depressed realizing I don’t have that many years ahead of me and I started going over my past regretting this decision or that one. But I finally realized whatever time I have left should be spent living life to the fullest (as much as this old body will permit) and treasuring each day. And though I do want to live as long as I can keep my mind and body healthy, the idea of living 500 years is not appealing. My belief in life after death makes me realize there is more ahead than behind me.

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  8. I remember getting all introspective when I turned 30. (Good grief!) Now I’m about to turn 66 and loving it! I wouldn’t want to trade in the experience and wisdom for going back to being “cute” and having shallow guys flirt with me. I’ve got better things to focus on now. I should probably add that I’m sure I would feel much differently if I were not a believer in Christ. Just knowing eternity is ahead, I get excited thinking I may be in the home stretch. The “divine perspective” makes ALL the difference. 😉

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  9. Yes, I admit I have gerascophobia. I’m 66. My body is failing me so fast. It’s genetic, evidently. My mind feels a lot younger than I am. I want to be a fly on the wall and see my grandkids grow to be my age, but that’s unrealistic. *sigh*

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  10. I don’t feel the stalk of time but at 57 I’m startled sometimes on how quickly it unwound, right now I’m traveling the world it has changed my views? I need to think a little more I get back to you.

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  11. Interesting. I don’t want to trade places with Tom Hazard. Extreme slow raging process had other complications. I don’t want to live long and suffer.

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  12. You know, I couldn’t live a life in which I had to stay one step ahead of all those I love, so my secret wouldn’t be “found” out. It would be a terrible, lonely, and depressing life.

    On the other hand, I would seriously like to have bits of the body I had 30 years ago (better knees for example) and have treated my body as if it were going to age. Follies of youth, eh? Learning to enjoy my veggies, the benefits of exercise, etc.

    I’m not afraid of dying. Getting into diapers or not knowing the people I love? Pass.

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  13. It’s odd, but the older I get, the happier I am. I no longer worry about what other people think (as much) and I don’t obsess about the things that worried me when I was younger. That is freedom, and maybe a different version of success than I had predicted for my life. ❤️

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  14. I would love to live longer than the average human but not 500 years! Maybe old enough to see T’s grandchildren 😊 I just don’t like the idea of every leaving her so am hoping for a very long life! Luckily my great grandmother lived to 97! She only missed meeting T by 6 months sadly.

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  15. I will be writing a blog about this relatively soon. The short answer is I am going to be 37 in April so I have no reason to be worried about my age and yet I do. All….the…time. I feel like I’m running out of sand in the hourglass and it terrifies me.

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