Robert Meyer asked the question in the Washington Post: Why do people stay put during hurricanes? Howard Gleckman in Forbes Magazine sees exactly the same psychology at work in our refusal to prepare for old age. He’s talking about financial preparation, but the message applies equally to general preparation — staying fit or getting fit, and paying attention to sleep and friendships, for example. (Hey, boot camp for the bonus years, anyone?)
Why, and why? are my favourite questions. I’ve adapted the reasons cited by Meyer and Gleckman for a different audience, those who can see old age approaching but don’t take action to protect their own future needs.
Excessive optimism. “Sure, I know people get old and frail, but it won’t happen to me.”
Herd thinking: Others you know don’t prepare so neither do you.
Myopia : We don’t plan ahead because it can be expensive or inconvenient. “Let’s just live for the day, age is just a number…”
Amnesia: Bad memories fade quickly. We forget what it was like when our dad was failing and didn’t have the support he needed.
Inertia and simplification: The amount of information about ageing is overwhelming. People don’t understand it. Faced with so many choices, we freeze, and do nothing.
I suspect there’s one more reason:
Excessive pessimism and fear: We anticipate the worst possible old age. We’re afraid of being poor, lonely, in pain, dead. The prospect seems so dreadful that we are paralyzed.
Do you agree? Do you recognise any of these defence mechanisms in yourself? What reasons do you believe are behind this fascinating and very human tendency to ignore the obvious when it comes to matters of ageing and death? I think many readers would like to know about your thoughts, feelings, and opinions.