Aging Anxiously: The Types and Growing Older
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” – Betty Friedan
Spotting that first gray hair in the mirror. Crunching the numbers for your retirement fund. Suddenly losing a healthy friend to a heart attack or stroke. Many things, big and small, can serve as wake-up calls that we’re not getting any younger, provoking a very common fear: I’m not ready to get old.
When we’re young, growing older can feel scary because of impending responsibilities. We may be faced with providing for ourselves, living by ourselves, and deciding the future for ourselves. Later in life, we have many of the same concerns, but in a new context: wanting to maintain the independence we’ve enjoyed as adults. We may long for youth and vitality. Maybe we worry about health issues and financial stability. Or fixate on goals we haven’t achieved, experiences we haven’t had. We feel like we’re running out of time, and we don’t want to face change.
It’s normal for anyone to have thoughts like these from time to time, but are there some personality types for whom these concerns are more persistent, more paralyzing? Conversely, are there some types who refuse to fret about old age? We asked our readers if they agreed with the statement, “You feel anxious about getting older,” and found that, although just a modest majority (56%) agreed overall, some types are significantly more worried about aging – especially those with Turbulent Identities.
With age comes wisdom, as some would say, so let’s take a moment to explore the results below.
Diplomats and Analysts (63% and 59% agreeing)
Diplomats and Analysts share the Intuitive personality trait, which played an important role in this survey – Intuitive types were 11% more likely than Observant types to say they feel anxious about getting older. Curious and imaginative, Intuitive types tend to focus on future possibilities. So what happens when they realize that they have fewer years ahead of them than they do behind them – when, in other words, the future seems to be dwindling? Wondering how they’ll age certainly provides fertile ground for contemplation, but too much time imagining negative scenarios is a recipe for anxiety.
Diplomats, with their core Feeling trait, can be more emotionally sensitive, so any concerns over aging might be more intense for them. Analyst personality types, on the other hand, have their Thinking trait to fall back on, which gives them greater ability to rationalize away any fears about getting older.
Of all the personality types, Turbulent Logicians (INTP-T) agreed with our statement the most (74%). Logicians live to learn, discover, and create. The idea of ever having to slow down or stop may well feel unbearable, especially for Turbulent types. All too aware of what they wish to do in life, for these Analysts, anxiety about aging may boil down to a fear of failure.
Explorers and Sentinels (53% and 50%)
As Observant personality types, Explorers and Sentinels stay grounded in the present while also being realistic about the future. Aging is a fact of life, and worrying about it isn’t going to accomplish anything. Explorers are particularly good at living in the moment. Their spontaneous nature helps keep them open to the promise all around them and ready to take change as it comes.
Sentinels, perhaps the ultimate pragmatists, much prefer working with reality over hypothetical concerns. They’re the least likely to feel anxious about aging, probably because they’re the best prepared for it. Forming strong habits from an early age, Sentinel personalities spend their lives working toward security and stability, always keeping a sensible eye on the future.
Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) agreed the least of any personality type (30%). Logisticians are dedicated to duty, always seeking to perform to the best of their ability, and may view growing older as a process of becoming wiser and more experienced. They strive to stay active in old age, for the sake of passing along their high standards and treasured traditions to the next generation. Practical and confident, Assertive Logisticians are particularly unlikely to be troubled by things they can’t change, focusing instead on the things they can.
Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (71% and 67% agreeing)
The Turbulent personality trait was the single greatest factor in how likely our readers were to agree that growing older makes them anxious, and Turbulent types were a hefty 30% more likely than their Assertive counterparts to feel this way. Stress and anxiety are defining characteristics of a Turbulent Identity, so it’s no surprise to see the Constant Improvement and Social Engagement Strategies agreeing at higher rates. Constant Improvers are deeply concerned with their accomplishments, so when considering their own legacy and mortality, these personalities could easily become anxious.
The slightly lower agreement of Social Engagers indicates that Extraversion may be a moderating factor. Indeed, Extraverts were 8% less likely to agree with our statement than Introverts. Extraverted personality types are stimulated by social situations and are always ready for new friends and new opportunities, an openness that makes aging a lot easier. They’re also more likely to draw positivity from other people, making their lives feel full and satisfying at any age. Introverts may find themselves facing a tougher reality. It takes Introverts a long time to let people in and build trusting relationships, so as they begin to lose their dearest friends and loved ones in old age, they may develop a valid fear of living out their last years too alone.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (39% each)
The drastically lower agreement of the People Mastery and Confident Individualism Strategies demonstrates the confidence and even-temperedness that come with an Assertive Identity. Secure in themselves, People Masters and Confident Individualists are less likely to experience anxiety over any sort of troubling issue. They also tend not to push themselves as hard as Turbulent personality types, and may feel more satisfied with themselves and their accomplishments in general. Assertive types should be mindful, however, that their own self-confidence could get them into trouble down the line, if they’re not willing to recognize that as they grow older, their abilities will inevitably become more limited.
We all have concerns about aging, to be sure. But for some of us, especially Turbulent personality types, these common concerns can turn into debilitating fears if we’re not careful. Introverts and Intuitive types must also learn to rein in their worries about growing older. Taking practical steps to prepare for the future is a simple way to feel more comfortable with it. Balancing out our anxieties with gratefulness for the good things happening in our lives right now can go a long way, as can a healthy dose of positive attitude going forward.
Are you anxious about growing older? How might you use your personality strengths to overcome your anxiety? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.