Fear Thesaurus Entry: Growing Old

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Growing Old

While growing old is a natural part of life, it’s not always an easy process. Someone who has always looked young, whose identity is tied to their attractiveness, or whose occupation relies on their mobility and independence can develop a fear in this area. Whether they’re triggered by their changing looks, a potential mental decline, a physical weakening of the body, or death itself, someone with this fear may become driven to do everything in their power to keep the inevitable at bay.

What It Looks Like
Incessantly working out
Eating healthy
Following a strict and involved skin care regimen
Investing in multiple cosmetic surgeries
Wearing a lot of makeup to cover signs of age
Staying out of the sun
Seeing doctors often for preventative and corrective measures
Avoiding doctors altogether (being in denial about growing old)
The character hanging out with people younger than them
Adopting youthful practices, speech, and activities
Needing constant reassurance about their appearance
Being obsessed about staying physically and mentally active
Avoiding reminders of old age, such as nursing homes or a retirement party
The character constantly testing their mental or physical acuity to see if it has deteriorated
The character avoiding having their picture taken
Taking many supplements that support memory and improved neurological functions
The character comparing themselves to others their age
Remaining stubbornly autonomous; turning down help or refusing to admit that an activity is beyond the character’s ability
The character refusing to change their ways—e.g., continuing to drive even when it’s dangerous for them to do so
Heightened awareness of mental and physical changes over time causing the character to hide or compensate for them

Common Internal Struggles
The character obsessing over changes in their appearance or mental capabilities
Worrying that others also notice the changes
Seeing deficiencies where there are none
Constantly wanting to look in mirrors but being afraid of what will show up there
The character comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking
Becoming deeply insecure about their appearance
Knowing that aging is a normal (and unavoidable) process but feeling compelled to fight it anyway
Being in denial about changes that are happening

Flaws That May Emerge
Childish, Compulsive, Defensive, Frivolous, Inflexible, Insecure, Irrational, Morbid, Nagging, Needy, Nervous, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Stubborn, Vain, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
The character spending too much money to maintain their appearance, purchase supplements, etc.
Frequent surgeries and recoveries stealing the character’s free time
The character spending so much time on the activities that will keep them young that they pass up other opportunities
Difficulty relating to people their own age
Being exhausted by the effort to always prove themselves and their capabilities to others

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
A friend or associate passing away
Seeing a drastic change in an older friend’s appearance
The character experiencing a physical change associated with aging, such as gray hair, age spots, or a drop in metabolism or libido
Hitting a milestone birthday (40, 50, 60, etc.)
The character having memory problems that aren’t caused by their age (a side effect of medication, not getting enough sleep, etc.)
The character having trouble doing something they’ve always excelled at
The character being rejected or discriminated against and believing it’s due to their age


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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