Question for older posters regarding feelings of mortality

I’ll be 38 in 3 months. I’m in great health and still feel relatively youthful. But in the past couple of years, the fact that I will get old (hopefully) has begun to feel much more real. I knew it when I was 25 of course, but it was much more abstract.

When I was in my early 20’s I sorta had the thought that “who knows, with medical advances by the time i’m old, I may reach 120”. Now that I’m halfway to retirement and the years zoom by so fast, that’s unlikely.

Now, my question is this: At 38, i’m still not quite old enough for the big killers to take me out. Of course I can get cancer, and 38 year old’s have heart attacks and strokes. But the odds are still in my favor. With a bit of luck I can reasonably plan on being around in 2050. (i’ll turn 77 that year). What is it like to be in late 60’s or 70’s and at least by the odds, your personal stop sign is not that far away. When you’re 70, do you think every day, “I wonder if I’ll have a heart attack today”?

I hope that doesn’t sound offensive to older posters. I’ll be there soon, you’re just a bit farther down the road than me. I think this is the kind of question one would normally ask a grandparent, but mine are all dead.

It’s not about age. At 45, I was happily living my life without thinking about mortality, and then got a diagnosis of cancer with a 50/50 chance of survival. THEN I thought about my mortality. Now that it’s over with (and I’ve gone through it a second time with a different kind of cancer), my mortality is always in the back of my mind, but I think I enjoy each individual day more than I did before the lymphoma diagnosis.

Medical science has made tremendous strides, and I fully intend to live longer than my parents and grandparents did.

I know what you’re saying, but that’s not exactly what I mean in this thread.

At age 70, barring very good genes or unforseen medical advances, a person’s mortality horizon is close. Look at the obituaries.

I’m curious how that knowledge affects one’s daily life at that age. If at all. You no longer have that ill-defined ‘someday’ to plan for as when young.

It’s a scary thing. I’m not old yet, but I am well past the midway point of my life. (My mother is 83 and she’s the one that I automatically think, “I wonder if her next doctor’s appointment is going to be the one where she receives a dread diagnosis”.) But I am most definitely attuned to any new ache, pain, or funny feeling and wonder if it’s…something? or nothing?..I don’t know that it’s death, oblivion, that I’m afraid of, but I don’t want a long drawn-out suffering. And I really, really worry about what my decline and death would mean for my husband, should I go first. He has no one in the world except me - a few distant relatives, work acquaintances, and our daughter who’s just now starting to make her way in the world on her own. That’s what worries me, what will become of my husband? … Is that what you wanted to know? Other than that, as one ages, it’s wise to try to make some kind of plan - make sure there’s insurance, your valuable papers are in one central place, wills are made, maybe buy a burial plot, look into any community program that serves the elderly, Meals On Wheels, call-a-bus…I guess I’m prepared to die, my husband says we’re like a well-matched team of horses going through life, and there’s the barn down the road, definitely in sight now. I just want us to pull up in the barnyard more or less at the same time, and to leave a tidy barn behind!

I’m not that old (turn 51 on Friday) but I do think about it from time to time. What seems to have happened with me and older people I know is that you come to terms with it. You think about it often enough that it begins to lose its ‘scariness’ and becomes a normal thought. One that you don’t necessarily dwell on, but is just kind of ‘there’.

I think about it, though in a different light recently, due to my recent engagement. I’m 45, and even if I get a longer than average lifetime at least half my life is over. If I get an average lifetime, then I’ve got maybe 30 years left. This was one of the factors driving the decision to get married…if I want to have much in the way of quality fun time as a married man, I need to get married now, while I’m still relatively healthy and able to do a few things.

Well it’s something you come to terms with. I am going on 46 and I had a hard time for a few months with turning 40.

The thing that effects me is not my mortality but the limitations it brings.

For instance, I need some work on my teeth. Nothing too bad, but I’d love to get some nice shiny veneers. But at 46 I start thinking of the cost. Should I spend the thousands and thousands of dollars on teeth? Frankly I’d rather have them pulled and use the money on a down payment on a car.

My dad was 50 and my mum 60 when they died (though my grandparents on both sides lived to their late 80s / early 90s).

So while you don’t always think, “will this be the day I die,” you also keep it in the back of my head, when you’re making life choices.

The one thing I hate most about getting old is needing glasses to read. I see great but now I can’t read the back of the aspirin bottle without glasses :slight_smile:

It’s not your age that triggers fears of your own death, it’s other people’s deaths – your immediate family and friends.

When my grandfather died at 102 I felt pretty damn near immortal. Three years later my mother died and I felt a lot less immortal. Now that I have friends the same age as me dying (occasionally, not on a regular basis) I’m aware “that could’ve been me.”

But I don’t dwell on it. I have a life to live. I’m aware that I can’t live the same life I did when I was 20, but that’s my problem with aging, not death.

And like saliqmind says, I’d like to die within about 15 minutes of my spouse. We’re flexible about who should actually flatline first.

Everybody dies.

You just have more time to get used to it, the older you get.

I fully believe that improvements in aging mean most people don’t get to experience death, and so are unprepared for it when it happens. When parents had six kids, only to have two reach adulthood, it was much less scary.

I’m 54. I probably think about this stuff less than I did when I was a kid (your age.) I worried about my mortality a whole lot more when I was 17 than I do now. What more is there to think about? I try to eat a little better these days and get more exercise but, at the same time, I have aches and pains, my eyes are failing and the ringing my ears is constant. Now I’m thinking I’ll be ready to go in 20 or 30 years. My kids I worry about.

At 61 I’m not as old as your question’s target, but here’s my reaction: I’m much less concerned with When than with How. Both of my parents were “lucky” (not the best term but all I can think of) in that they did not have lingering illnesses. They were fading in various ways but still living at home and taking care of themselves. Each of them passed within a week of being hospitalized (about 5 years separated the two deaths). This is really what they both wanted, not to be intubated and in a long-term care facility, or anything like that.

I really want to have a healthy old age, and then go quickly like my parents. But I am prepared for other eventualities, including getting hit by a bus. My affairs are in order, as much as possible, at all times. Beyond that, I just don’t think about it much yet.

When I was 45, my warranty apparently expired. I was hit with a pulmonary embolism, during the treatment of which they diagnosed me with a chronic condition that I am still under treatment for eight years later. I separated a shoulder, and acquired some tendon issues here and there.

Prior to that, I still thought of myself as a relatively young and relatively fit guy. Sudden breath of mortality down the back of the neck!

But, I also have become comfortable with the notion that I won’t last forever. I have done what I need to do in this life - raised a couple of excellent kids to the point that they can make their own way in the world if need be, achieved success and respect in my career, am financially set so that my family will be secure after I am gone, etc. Obviously, I’d like to stick around longer and see grandchildren, etc., but if I were told I only had six months to live, I’d be OK with it.

This is in some contrast to the way I thought when I was younger, and the realization of that was the genesis of my thread Elrond or Elros?

Another thing, and I hate to say it, but…I’m afraid the younger generation is going to be faced with a very different world from the one I grew up in. I don’t know how people are going to live in the future; I know somehow mankind will adjust and get by, but frankly I’m a little glad I won’t be around for it.

I’m 53, and I don’t think much about having a heart attack or getting sick. I just feel like there’s not enough time. When I was younger I used to feel like I had all the time in the world, and now I think about how short life is. There’s so much I want to do, but between work, exercise, sleep, and having a social life, there’s just so little time, and I don’t want to give any of those things up. Well, maybe work, but I can’t do that.

I’m 70 and I think about every day; usually when I go to bed. I wonder if I will wake up the next morning and usually don’t care if I do or not. My only hope concerning my death is that it is quick and sudden. My friend died of a heart attack in his sleep; according to what I learned, it looked as if the heart attack hit and he died. No signs at all that he struggled or fought. I’d like to go that way.

Hey, me too! :slight_smile:

I was just telling my daughter that it has occurred to me there is no future to hope for, only the past to reflect on and the present to fill as best I can with dwindling capabilities. I don’t fear death, I fear drooling in my lap with a clear mind or pushing a walker around for ten years asking everybody what day it is. Thus faced with taking drugs or having transplants to prolong my life, I say no thanks.

I first contemplated the finality of death when I was five years old, so I’ve had plenty of time to warm up to the idea. People have been dying for millions of years, it can’t be that bad.

I’d agree with this. My mother died when she was just a few years older than I am now. Similarly, a buddy older than me by a few years died when he was about as old as I am now. A woman who was a classmate of mine at university was brought down by leukemia when she was 40. One of my elementary and high school chums had a heart attack and died at 35. Heck, another school friend nearly died a few years ago. He survived, but it was touch-and-go for a while.

In short, when I was younger, the only people who died were elderly and distant relatives. But now, I’m over halfway to the end of my time, barring any accidents; and with the friends and family I’ve already said goodbye to, I do think about it from time to time.

The one issue that concerns me is whether I will survive my wife or whether she will survive me. Whenever I raised this issue with my parents, they would say that they planned to die together (it was usually said in a semi joking tone). As a result, after my father died (he was the healthier, younger one), I discovered that they had never even discussed the possibility of one of them dying. I think they considered it bad luck. I think my mother’s mourning was extended as a result.

Talk about death with your SO. Revisit that conversation every year or so. It will help you live and it will bring you closer.

As far as my own relationship to death is concerned (I am 61), I find that my once intellectual understanding that I was going to die has become more of an emotional understanding. I still don’t quite believe it. Until, of course, I die.

One of my favorite poems is **My Cup ** by Robert Friend;

They tell me I am going to die.
Why don't I seem to care?
My cup is full. Let it spill.

I hope this is how I feel, but experience has shown me that for some of us the cup will be emptied long before it drops to the ground.