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Anxiety in fifty and sixty year olds

159 replies

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:06

I am in my fifties and I am just noticing more and more friends getting anxious about doing a range of things. This is anything from driving on a motorway, to travelling abroad to a non tourist resort area. Not all my friends, some are still very adventurous. But is this the beginning of the anxiety many older people seem to feel?
And nearly all older people seem to develop more anxiety as they are in their seventies and eighties. I saw it in my mother who was not afraid of anything when younger, but by her seventies would get anxious about going anywhere new?
Maybe it is inevitable? But I really want to avoid it for myself if possible.

OP posts:
SisterWivesrus · 19/05/2023 13:11

As we get older, there are more reasons to be anxious.

It's not inevitable but there are lots of solid reasons for it.

EmmaEmerald · 19/05/2023 13:13

Having suffered horrendous anxiety since I was 8 - have meds since 21 - I really hope not!

my mum and uncle said it gets better in 50s!

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:19

True about more reasons to be anxious.

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DustyLee123 · 19/05/2023 13:21

Not sure how you can avoid it really, as it does seem to be a thing. My poor DF has panic attacks going to the supermarket, yet he used to be a lorry driver, driving all over.

Stratocumulus · 19/05/2023 13:24

I think maybe the anxiety comes from increasing lack of muscle power and strength which is unavoidable. Lack of hearing for public announcements can also contribute to fear of travelling. The madness of motorway travel can be gut wrenching if you don’t keep it up and use a Mway frequently enough or know exactly where you’re going. Arthritis pain every day can really drag a person down.

There’s no broad brush answer to this. Some folks in their sixties and seventies are content with a quiet life, others like my Mum at 98 are still out to the shop on the bus most days, cooks dinners and sponges, cleans her flat, gardens (but not so much these days) is very independent, capable, can hold a lovely informed conversation and is very positive about life. She has never driven a car and has always been a fan of walking.

Good health has a massive part to play both for energy, strength and enjoyment overall.
Im not sure we can do anything but try hard not to get as you describe (weak, feeble, lacking confidence) and it’s not as simple as “mind over matter” but in 20yrs who knows what nature will take from us which will change our abilities and mindset.
Time flys. I wish you well and will be interested in others’ responses.

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:24

@DustyLee123 That is sad to hear. My mother used to take all us kids by herself on holiday on a whim and just find somewhere to stay when we got there. I would never do that as it must have been so stressful. But she was supremely confident it would all be all right. So it was disconcerting to see her getting anxious about going anywhere new.

@EmmaEmerald I hope it does for you.

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MrsDoylesDoily · 19/05/2023 13:28

Many people aren't as fit as they were when they were younger, so they're bound to be anxious about travel/driving etc.

I'm seeing a lot of it with older colleagues and due to the state retirement age being so high, it's not going to go away.

onlyoneoftheregimentinstep · 19/05/2023 13:30

Definitely not inevitable. I'm very lucky never to have had any significant problems with anxiety and now, in my 70s, I feel more confident than ever. In my case all my decades of experience have served to build my self belief.

Connect3 · 19/05/2023 13:34

I think menopause brings a drop in confidence and an increase in anxiety in many people.

Also, as you get older you are more vulnerable and less able to help yourself if something goes wrong.

For example, I know how to change a wheel, but I'm not physically strong enough to do it anymore.

I cope by thinking about what I'd need to do and mostly throwing money at the problem to know I could get help but it does make doing things less straightforward.

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:35

I just wonder if those who are showing anxiety in their fifties and sixties are going to be the very anxious seventy and eight year olds.
And it has been a surprise to me with some. You don't see it all the time, but every so often it pops up, especially with doing something totally new.
@MrsDoylesDoily sad to see that with some older colleagues.

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MuttsNutts · 19/05/2023 13:36

I think many people’s worlds shrink as they get older, especially as they reduce or give up work. Lots of people become more focused on their home, family and existing friendship group.

Then the less adventurous they become, the more daunting it seems to do something that becomes out of their comfort zone.

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:37

@Connect3 I know what you mean that there are things you can't do that you could do when you are younger. But that is why I have breakdown cover, or hire a car if I can't walk far enough.

OP posts:
DejaVoodoo · 19/05/2023 13:37

I'm 54 and my anxiety has gone through the roof in the last couple of years. I'm more than certain it's menopause related, and HRT has certainly helped. This may be the case for other women, too.

But also as a PP above says, we get less fit and physically capable with age. Also, we are probably more aware of danger and pitfalls, and more aware of our own mortality. Young people think they're immortal and invincible; well maybe not explicitly, but they live that way and take more risks.

MuttsNutts · 19/05/2023 13:38

Also, with age comes experience of bad stuff happening. Stuff you don’t even contemplate when you’re young and fearless.

Connect3 · 19/05/2023 13:47

callingeveryone · 19/05/2023 13:37

@Connect3 I know what you mean that there are things you can't do that you could do when you are younger. But that is why I have breakdown cover, or hire a car if I can't walk far enough.

Yes, exactly that's how I cope too, but it's not a huge expense for me. The trouble is there's lots more to worry about.

Another example of life just getting that bit more worrying/stressful is losing family.

When I was young, even after I was married, I knew my Dad or my husband would come and pick me up from pretty much anywhere I'd managed to get myself stranded if i really needed them to. They can't do that now, so I think about other ways I'd get home, but again that all comes at a cost.

I'm due to go away on my own next week, travelling home on the day of the train strikes. My "what's the worst that can happen?" is I'll have to find somewhere to stay a couple of extra nights if I can't get a train, but I know that's going to come at a price.

Once thing I find way more stressful is anything to do with the house. As I've got older, I have fewer friends/contacts in the business and the tradesmen ive used for years have started to retire. We know tradesmen exist who will try and take advantage of little old ladies...

Just everything seems to get that bit more worrying. For now I find ways to feel the fear and do it anyway, but not everyone can or wants to.

Greenable · 19/05/2023 13:48

I think all we can do is try to stay as fit as we can and keep stepping outside of our comfort zones. It sounds trivial but maybe taking on a difficult challenge such as learning a new language will then reassure us we can cope with other new things.

bellinisurge · 19/05/2023 13:49

I'm well travelled from a well travelled family. DH isn't. He's always been fearful. I used to be fearless. I think a lot of it is to do with being more aware of what can go wrong. Back in the day, people who might be a risk to me didn't have such ready access to information that indulges and encourages their risky sociopathic behaviour. Now they do .

TheOrigRights · 19/05/2023 13:52

I don't suffer from anxiety (age 52), but I recognise that my resilience is lower than I'd like.
The worries I have are grown up worries - PILs with degenerative illnesses, a sibling with a lifetime of MH problems which manifest themselves in very difficult ways, worries about my teenager and an adult niece, financial security, noticing my eyes are so good for night driving.

Combine that with poor sleep (partly my own fault because I need some time when no one is making demands on me), and I can easily see that it turns into things I'm top of to being on high alert and anxious.

SaladRooney · 19/05/2023 13:57

I'm 50, but haven't seen this in my peers -- in fact, people seem to be dealing with middle age by making a lot of changes (divorces, moving countries, changing careers, taking up fitness seriously) and doing some comparatively risky things, like extreme ultramarathons in the arctic or challenging climbing.

I do see it in my parents, who are 80, but they were always quite timid in the case of my mother, and very routine-bound in the case of my father (though getting accentuated by age in both cases).

Crabwoman · 19/05/2023 13:59

My parents are very well travelled, but anxiety is creeping in. My DM has developed bowel issues, which have caused problems on planes, so she gets really stressed about that. My DF has a few long-term side effects from prostate cancer a few years ago that he has to factor in.

I think it old age and associated health issues just adds complexity to travel and doing stuff.

My dearly departed DG on the other hand had no such anxieties, and we had to rescue her on a few occasions when she fell or got ill.

EmmaEmerald · 19/05/2023 14:02

It's interesting that travel comes up a lot

That might be informing my better experience, because I don't do it.

I stopped driving ages ago, and it's extremely rare for me to travel. I found even with medication, it was too hard and I also was ill abroad a couple of times. I made it to Vegas for my 40th, seven years ago, but I imagine that's my last trip abroad.

The physical strength thing I get, but it's more of an irritation. I had a spinal injury in my 30s and live alone, so am accustomed to always having to pay to get jobs done at home. But I am finding that more annoying than before. 

I walk very slowly and carefully but having got to used to it from relatively young, I probably have a different perspective. 

I am concerned by my lack of resilience or staying power. I can get about two useful hours out of my brain per day. It's not great.

LaDamaDeElche · 19/05/2023 14:02

I've noticed this in my mum. She's 61, looks absolutely incredible - eats a whole food diet, does loads of sport, so nothing to do with feeling older as such. However, I've seen a really big change in her in the last couple of years. She is now quite neurotic at times, gets a shrill/irritated tone to her voice, which she didn't have before and has admitted that she suffers from anxiety in a way she never did when she was younger. I live abroad, so don't see her frequently, and it's been quite a shock to see the change.

RitaCrudgington · 19/05/2023 14:04

My DM was very intolerant of her DM's refusal to go anywhere new, and her constant refrain of "you don't understand, it's all so difficult". But as she reached her late sixties (after DGM had died) DM admitted to me that she'd been too harsh, and now understood how DGM felt.

At 55, I'm firmly team "La La La, it will never happen to me"

Ambertonix · 19/05/2023 14:28

Im 50 and i definitely feel more anxiety now out in the world than i used to. I think it is probably due to the fact that my hearing isnt great and if there is lots of external noise around me i struggle to isolate the sound of the person talking directly to me or listen out for a train announcement for example. This makes me self conscious and the more aware of it i am the worst it gets if that makes sense! It hasnt stopped me going anywhere or doing anything but i definitely feel more secure if DH is with me than if i am on my own.

lemonchiffonpie · 19/05/2023 14:45

I think maybe the anxiety comes from increasing lack of muscle power and strength which is unavoidable.

No, it isn't. You can keep building and maintaining muscle mass into your nineties. If you don't move at all, yes, you will lose muscle.

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