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Fear of aging is real: 25% of women report turning down social invitations as they worry they’ll be ‘shunned from society’

The majority of women say they are afraid to grow old. These fears are not only about dying or age-related diseases—with the idealization of youth, many women worry about what aging means for their mental health, career, and personal life, according to a recent survey from Luvly, a face yoga, skincare, and wellness platform.

The fears aren’t new, though, as women, in particular, have been the target of society’s long-held obsession with how old people look. 

“There’s a much higher bar for women to appear younger,” Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior advisor of employee engagement at the AARP, previously told Fortune.

In the survey of about 2,000 women aged 30 and up, 12% fear that getting old will lead to societal neglect, and 11% fear it will lead to loneliness and isolation. Over half, 66%, of the women find dating more difficult with age. One in 10 women call dating impossible, and one in four have declined a social invitation because of their age. 

The results echo past research illustrating pervasive age discrimination at work. This survey found one in six women has faced ageism at work, such as getting denied a promotion or job. All of these factors impact overall well-being, as 41% of women say aging affects their mental health, with some saying it contributes to their anxiety or depression. 

“For many, the fear of aging stems from the thought of being shunned from society and left all alone,” says Marina Klimenka, cofounder of Luvly. “It isn’t on women to learn to ignore their insecurities. It’s on society to remove the issues causing them. 

Changing the narrative on the golden years  

Challenging ageist narratives at work should come from the top, such as offering flexible work policies for older adults like caregiving benefits and providing age-inclusive training for hiring managers, Klimenka says. As more people delay retirement, companies must foster an age-inclusive environment that values seasoned workers’ wisdom, problem-solving skills, and mentoring capacity, workplace experts tell Fortune

“The reality is, you don’t suddenly lose your ability to function the day you turn 50,” Klimenka says. “Many [women] continue working into their later years and offer just as much as their younger colleagues if not more. If we can get rid of such biases, aging would be far less of a worry for many women.” 

Outside of work, it’s also about shifting cultural messages that equate beauty with youthfulness and youthfulness with worthiness. 

How to embrace aging  

There are some signs of positive change in how we talk about aging. 

Contestants flocked to ABC’s inaugural Golden Bachelor to illustrate that dating isn’t just for the young. Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 63, regularly challenges the trope that women her age are beyond their prime. In a podcast series called Wiser Than Me, the Seinfeld star talks with celebrated women about the unique wisdom they are gaining in their older years, such as Jane Fonda’s perspective on how aging isn’t as scary when you’re actually in it and feeling your happiest (she’s 86). In a recent profile in the New York Times, Louis-Dreyfus discussed how she’s excited for what her golden years will bring. 

“​​It seems like more and more is possible. I’m excited to try new things work-wise. I’m excited to travel places and read books I haven’t read,” she said. 

As more people embrace the realities of getting older, people may be more comfortable showing up for others and staying connected—a critical component in aging well. 

“I’m sure the older ones among us have a few more good stories to tell than their fresh-faced friends and family,” Klimenka says. “So embrace it. Share your wisdom, and show everyone that growing old isn’t so bad.” 

Still, the onus rests on shifting cultural and systematic attitudes in and out of the workplace to create a safe environment for aging well.

For more on combating ageism: 

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