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Fight the fear of getting older, live life with a purpose

Each day in my email, I receive Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day.” I credit it for my ever-growing vocabulary. Recently, a word came across my desk, catching my eye: FOGO. It’s not really a word, it is an acronym or as Merriam-Webster defines: a word formed from the initial letter of each of the successive parts of a compound term. In other words, each letter stands for a distinct word. FOGO is made up of the first letter of four words that together convey a unique meaning, FOGO—fear of getting older.

FOGO is widespread. Along with aging, comes a fair amount of misunderstandings, falsehoods, and fallacies about growing older, often paralyzing aging people. Author on aging topics and Psychology Today blogger Meg Selig has written about FOGO. The

seventy-eight -year-old points out three amazing facts, dispelling myths about getting older:

  1. Older people tend to be happier people. From age 51 upward, she writes from her research, happiness levels begin to increase. If that’s the case, I should be delirious.

  2. Older people tend to be healthier people. Most older people rate their health as either good or excellent because they can still do the things that matter to them.

  3. Older people are mentally healthier. Older people have lower rates of nearly all mental problems, including depression and social anxiety, as noted in the book, A Long Bright Future, by longevity and aging expert Laura Carstensen.

There’s another fear I won’t talk about and that is FOLO. You’ve probably never heard of that one—I just made it up: FOLO—fear of

LOOKING older. I’m not going to touch that one. But it is important to grow older with grace and healthy aging.

In fact, I want to encourage those of you of a certain age—and you will know if I’m talking about you—to have a “Plan for Healthy Aging.” Ask yourself, “What can I do to make life better today?” Too many people go to their graves with their music still inside them,

with their poetry yet to be written.

Don’t let that happen to you. When opportunity knocks, don’t knock the opportunity. Grab the brass ring. Hear your music. Play your music before the song is over.

Determine today to be proactive and run from FEAR—which is just “false evidence appearing real!” Having an antidote for those suffering from FOGO can turn one’s life around:

  1. We may fear physical decline and chronic illness. Possible antidote: Exercise regularly and live a healthy lifestyle. I was once was asked by a reporter about the “Key to Success.” My answer was and still is—a heart-friendly meal and a good night’s sleep.

  2. We may fear loss of memory and other age-related maladies. Possible antidote: Acquaint yourself now with the latest research on preventing dementia. Work puzzles. Watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. They are staples in our house. Don’t call me at 7 p.m.

  3. We may fear loss of money. Possible antidote: Create a budget, save more, and spend less.

  4. We may fear loneliness. Possible antidotes: Cherish your friends and connect often. Cherish your family and keep in touch.

Now, if you have any other FOGO concerns, take these words from Andy Rooney to heart, “I didn’t get old on purpose. It just happened. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you.”

And remember, whether you are young or young at heart, you are not alone. God is with you—in you—for you. God is on your side because you are on God’s side. When the storms of life come, God is there. When we feel alone and depressed, God is there. When we

feel we don’t matter, and we’re gripped with fear, remember, God is there.

Written by Dr. Michael C. Blackwell, president/CEO

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