By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published May 30, 2019
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but it never gets you anywhere.”
A great many seniors have elevated worrying to an art form. I remember that my mother, God rest her soul, was a world-class worrier. As a single mom, she had a lot to worry about. She raised four children while working as a Catholic elementary school teacher. There was always something occupying her thoughts and fears, but so many things were beyond her control.
As the youngest child, I thought when I left for college my mom would be able to enjoy the empty nest and reduce her level of worrying. I was wrong. She began to worry about the fact that she didn’t have enough to worry about. Every day she feared that some great tragedy was right around the corner.
I could be wrong, but I think mothers are the best worriers. How many times have we all said to our mothers, “Mom, don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” Of course, that didn’t stop them from worrying about us.
Sources of worry for seniors
As we age, we have more time to worry. In fact, it becomes a preoccupation with many seniors. What are the primary causes of worry for seniors? “Seniors Lifestyle” magazine identified four primary sources of worry for seniors:
- Decline of health. It is normal and natural for our bodies to begin wearing down. Whether it is hearing, vision or the infamous “senior moments,” all seniors can expect to experience some degree of physical or mental decline.
- Loss of independence. Other fears are losing independence and the ability to care for ourselves. For instance, surrendering the car keys can be a major trauma.
- Financial concerns. As we live longer, some seniors worry about financial security. Many financial plans were created years prior to retirement when life expectancy was much shorter. This can lead to a fear of running out of money.
- Death of relatives or friends. One reality of aging is the awareness that our spouse, children or our closest loved ones may die before us. Grief and loneliness can be an overwhelming source of anxiety.
Although worries may occupy our thoughts, it is not good for us physically and mentally. We can let worry erode a happy life or we can find a way to turn a negative into a positive. In “The Other 999 Rooms,” author Bill Apablasa came up with several ways to embrace the art of a worry-free life. Here are four of his suggestions:
- Accept that worry doesn’t help. You can worry every hour of the day and night but it does nothing to solve a problem.
- Stay in the moment. We spend time and energy worrying about what has already happened, or what we think might happen and we neglect today. We should try very hard not to worry about things we cannot change.
- Look for things to be happy about. We have to remember the treasures we have—our loved ones, the beauty of nature, our remarkable bodies and minds and our endless capacity to love, laugh and find joy in life.
- Use worry to find meaning. We have the power to set aside our worries and focus on positive things that enhance or bring true meaning to our lives.
The best-selling author Dr. Barbara De Angelis put it this way, “When you only view your obstacles as undesirable, you rob yourself of the hidden gifts they contain. All obstacles are lessons in disguise. Honor and learn from them.”
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send your thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.