Women's Aging Fear #2: Being Left Alone
Women and Aging: Page 3
A spouse's death figures high among women's fears, as does seeing their children dying first or losing old friends when they relocate for retirement, move to be closer to family, or become sick or die. "Social losses are very painful," says Eva Kahana, professor of sociology at Case Western Reserve University, who directs its 20-year Successful Aging Study.
"Men are 'fight-and-flighters.' If they can't do something, that's stressful," says stress expert and Harvard instructor Eva Selhub, senior physician at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine. "Women are 'tenders and befrienders.' If they can't have as many people in their lives, that's what's stressful to them."
"The fear of being alone is more harsh for women," adds Selhub. "Men seem to more easily find a younger model. You're more likely to see a 70-year-old man with a 30-year-old woman than to see the reverse."
Fear fighter: Know that even if you have fewer overall connections as you get older, they gain intimacy and importance -- and that's true for both women and men. "We think of old people as loners, but they're really not," Kahana says. "And though it's often emphasized how men and women are different, after age 70, we see both genders becoming less self-centered and more connected to others."