Security vs. Dependency, and Aging

A grim choice confronts some people when they face problems associated with advancing age.  Do they have to accept insecurity and deprivation? Must they surrender much of their independence and integrity in order to be helped?

Elderly men and women may prefer to go it alone instead of taking advantage of available resources to which they may appear as stubborn and unrealistic.  But they many feel life would no longer be worthwhile if they were to become too dependent on others for their needs.

Young adults may also fear the dependency associated with old age.  It's not unusual for them to declare that they would rather die than grow old with a multiple of diseases and disabilities, rightly or wrongly associated with aging.  Thus, the dread of old age already influences the thoughts, feelings and actions of people who are still years away from it.

Since this fear of dependency weighs heavily upon so many people, both old and not so old, it's important to understand the psychological and bio-social realities.  The question then is: why does dependency appear as such a grim prospect?  

We all begin life as helpless infants that are dependent on others for our survival and well-being.  It takes years to reach a point before we can take full responsibility for our lives.  Many of the steps along the way are difficult and few of us make our way without struggle or conflict.

We are always having to prove our independence to ourselves and others and struggle to overcome the temptation of sliding back to that earlier stage of dependency.

We recognize the advantages of independence and the obstacles we must overcome to gain it. There are also times when it seems so pleasant to drift into a more passive state, seemingly to relinquish what we've achieved. "Let somebody else take care of us, make the tough decisions, protect, nurture...."

This ambivalence is complicated by biological and cultural expectations and impulses. As adults, we may be called upon not only to be self-reliant, but also to meet the dependency needs of others, especially young children. This too can be hard on the type of person who may have strong dependency cravings beneath a facade of independence.

An old person is not a child by any stretch of the imagination and it is therefore appropriate for an elderly individual to seek help and protection as physical and/or mental abilities begin declining.

Family and community can provide aid and comfort that will go a long way to assuring the elderly they are not alone during a crisis, now and in the future.  A few examples of that aid can be a hot meal, a ride, medication pickup, and any other kind of meaningful assistance.

Quotable Quote:  "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance."

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