65+ years

Worry

It is generally believed that as you get older you worry less. For example, you may not be as worried about whether people like you, and you feel more inclined to say what you are thinking than you used to. This is all well and good but you are likely to still have a few worries that trouble you, it’s just they may be different worries to other times in your life. Your body has been changing, creaking and groaning for some time, and while you are more used to this, it may still worry you. You might be expecting an increase in health problems, but it is the worry about losing your independence that is getting to you. Or worries may also be about your safety. Or are the worries about your family, the way the world has changed, and the growing sense of how ‘invisible’ you feel?  

Is it worries or something more than this?

LEARN Consider the different stories and pictures below, listen to a podcast or watch a short video.

THINK Then, to understand more about what causes worry you can explore the different social, psychological and physical causes that can increase worry. In this section you will find questions to ask yourself about each cause to see if it affects you.

DO Once you have explored the causes of your worry then it might be time to do something. Go to the ‘Toolkit’ to find a range of different tools to help yourself try and reduce worry.

View the causes of Worry for 65+ years

Do you relate to these?

At 85, I worry not so much about dying but about how to arrange my days and years to be both the least bother for others and the most satisfying for myself.

I worry about little things I’ve meant to do but haven’t yet got around to like organising papers and photos.

I still worry about my children even though they are adults, and my grandchildren and other family members.

someecards.com - We'll be the old ladies causing trouble in the nursing home.

I worry about a disablement, mental or physical.

“My photographs don’t do me justice – they look just like me.”
Phyliis Diller

“I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret…if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.”
Katharine Hepburn

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”
Erma Bombeck

I worry about how I can live my life in a normal, independent way if I couldn’t drive.

It's a scary feeling to wake up one day and find out you've gone out of fashion while sleeping.
Erma Bombeck

Causes of worry for 65+ years

What happens

Some personalities are more prone to worrying - you might like having control over your world and worry if things are moving so fast they feel beyond your control – this could be simply the new remote or your new phone or the added complexity of constantly changing systems such as in banks, cinemas, computers or hospitals.

Questions to ask yourself

Is it in my make-up to be a worrier?

How much control do I like to feel I have over my life?

How worried do I feel when things are moving too fast and I can’t seem to keep up?

What happens

Unhelpful thinking can create a cycle of tension and unease. For example, before going out to a luncheon you think - “What if no one talks to me?”, and then you sense the tension in your body. Then you arrive at the lunch and find everyone is lovely and there are lots of people who speak to you. If you were to avoid going to the lunch your worry is more likely to return or grow bigger the next time you were asked to a luncheon.

Questions to ask yourself

What thoughts trigger my feelings of worry?

Are these thoughts unhelpful or faulty?

What is the evidence to support my thoughts?

What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is this?

What happens

You might not worry as much about what people think of you as you did when you were younger, but instead you might worry that sometimes it feels like your thoughts and opinions aren’t judged to be as useful as they used to be. You want your opinion to matter and it’s upsetting if you feel people dismiss your thoughts and viewpoint, or don’t value what you have to say.

Questions to ask yourself

How much do I worry what others think of me?

How do I feel when people don’t appear to listen to what I have to say?

How much do I feel valued?

What happens

‘Growing old gracefully’ might be a great saying, but you are living it - some days you feel invisible, some days are good and some days you wonder who it is staring back at you from the mirror.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I worry about how my body looks?

How much am I worried about being invisible to others?

What does ‘growing old gracefully’ mean to me?

What happens

If you experienced abuse, neglect or harm growing up, or violence in your close relationships this can cause you to be vulnerable to worry. Any kind of abuse such as emotional, mental or physical can cause you to worry about dangerous or risky situations in different ways than others who have not had these experiences. You may react more strongly to criticism, worry that others do not like or value you and that your thoughts or feelings are not important.

Questions to ask yourself

If relevant, in what ways has maltreatment or violence caused me to be more vulnerable to worry?

What happens

Having roles that give you meaning are important to your mental and emotional health. You might be a friend, a mother, a grandmother, a volunteer, a worker, a partner… there are many roles you may have in life. Sometimes these roles are given to you and at other times you choose the roles you have. If you feel good about your roles it is easier to not worry so much.

Questions to ask yourself

What meaning do I have in my life?

What roles and sense of purpose do I have?

How much do I worry about any of the roles I have?

Do I feel good about the roles I have?

Social causes →
What happens

Problems with your family can include lots of things. It might be your parents or a sibling are older and more reliant on you, or you have lost a parent, or both parents, perhaps your children are busy with their own lives or live a long way away, perhaps you don’t have children and rely on others for support. All of these things can be unsettling and make you worry more.

Questions to ask yourself

Are there family problems which cause me to be stressed and worried?

Have there been changes to my family which I am worried about? If so, what are these changes?

How much do I worry about who I can rely on?

What happens

Sometimes change is stressful. You might be worried about changes to your independence, or be thinking about whether you can continue to live alone, or where you should live if you need support.

Life events such as serious illness or the death of someone you love add to the unease you may be feeling.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I experienced any stressful or difficult events recently?

How do I experience change?

How worried am I about losing some of my independence?

What happens

How much you worry about money may depend to some extent on your assets and financial situation. There is often a fear of not having enough money to last you and not being a burden to others or a fear that others may not be being careful about your money. These things can make you feel uneasy.

Questions to ask yourself

How worried am I about having enough money to last me over my lifetime?

Am I worried about being a financial burden to others?

What happens

Friends can accept you for all that you are and sometimes they can make you feel you are not good enough. This happens at every age and stage of your life. As you get older, friends may change and you may worry about finding opportunities to make new friends.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I feel accepted by my friends?

Who accepts or does not accept me?

How much do I worry about opportunities to make new friends?

What happens

Having people to talk to when you need support is one of the most important ways to feel good about yourself. This might be friends, family, people in community groups you belong to, or the people you mix with where you work. As you grow older some supports you may have relied on may change, perhaps because you have moved to a new community, perhaps through illness or death. Feeling alone and grieving for lost support networks can negatively impact on your mental and emotional health. You may start to worry more about being left alone.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I have good friends, family or people I trust who can be there for me?

Who do I have that I can talk to if I need to?

Have people who I turn to for support moved on, or are they no longer there for me?

Community causes →
What happens

The community in which you live is important to your mental health. Feeling safe, that there are places to go, ways to get there and things to do can help you to feel connected to your community and that you belong somewhere. If you move to a new community you may worry about finding your way around, and finding the same type of services you are used to.

Questions to ask yourself

How do I feel about the community where I live?

How safe do I feel in my community?

How connected do I feel and do I feel that I belong in my community?

If you have moved to a new community - Can I find the same services I had where I used to live?

What happens

Feeling safe is a basic human right. When you are older you can feel more vulnerable and less safe. This might be physically, such as feeling more vulnerable to a physical attack, or that you might fall more easily and hurt yourself – or it can be where you feel more vulnerable to being exploited or ripped off.

Questions to ask yourself

How much do I worry about being physically attacked?

How much do I worry about falling over?

Do I feel worried that I could be ripped off or exploited?

Physical causes →
What happens

As you age, aches and pains, problems with high blood pressure and cholesterol or illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes can trouble you. Having these reminders of poorer health can cause you to worry about yourself and make you uneasy about your future health.

Questions to ask yourself

How worried am I about any illnesses I mighth have or get in the future?

What happens

Excessive drinking (defined as more than two standard drinks on any day and with no alcohol free days in a week) can:

  • make you focus more on your worries
  • be a sign you are trying to cover up or numb your feelings of worry.
Questions to ask yourself

How much am I drinking? Do I feel this is too much?

How much do I think my drinking alcohol is connected to my worries?

What happens

Quality sleep can be difficult to achieve as you grow older. Lack of quality sleep not only makes you tired but can also affect your ability to think clearly, which may increase your worrying.

Questions to ask yourself

How much sleep do I get per night?

Is it hard to go to sleep or do I wake in the night and find it hard to go back to sleep?

Is my ability to sleep affected by worry?

What happens

An unhealthy diet made up of high fat and sugary foods affects your mood and can make you more prone to worry. In addition, erratic eating such as forgetting to eat or eating only one large meal a day doesn’t help your mood. Lack of exercise can also make you more prone to worry.  

Questions to ask yourself

Do I generally eat a range of healthy foods or do I eat too many sugary or fatty foods?

Do I exercise at least 3-4 times per week for more than 30 minutes?

Created on 18/08/2013 | Updated on 10/12/2015
References for this page
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About Jean Hailes

Jean Hailes is Australia’s leading and most trusted women’s health organisation. We believe in physical and emotional health and wellbeing in all its dimensions for all women in Australia throughout their lives.

We offer a range of free resources and easy to understand information on women’s health and wellbeing. Appointments at our specialist women’s health clinics can be made in person (East Melbourne and Clayton, VIC) or across Australia via our Telehealth consultation service. www.jeanhailes.org.au

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