People Over 80 Reveal The Worries They Regret Having When They Were Young

Some scenarios aren't worth stressing about.

Between financial troubles, relationship woes and health scares, there are plenty of worries throughout our lives.

According to the American Psychological Association, about a third of people report that stress feels overwhelming most days. Some of these concerns are incredibly valid. Cost of living is absurdly high, health problems (a pandemic, anyone?) can spark intense anxiety, and conflict can be extremely painful.

However, there are plenty of other scenarios we often ruminate over that aren’t worth it. As the old adage goes, “most of the things we worry about don’t happen.”

To test just how true that is, HuffPost spoke with people in their 80s, 90s and 100s to get their thoughts on the things they worried about when they were younger. And, it turns out, they wasted time fretting over some of the things you may be concerned about now. Here’s what they said:

They wish they didn’t care what people thought about them.

Jackie Stricker, who is 100 and lives independently at St. John’s Meadows in Rochester, New York, said that, during her teenage years, “I suppose it mattered to me what people thought about me.”

While this was a worry of hers during her younger days, what people thought of her became less of a concern as she got older.

“Sometimes people don’t like you, and there’s really nothing you can do about it,” she explained to HuffPost. “They themselves don’t even know why, so I don’t worry about it.”

They wish they didn’t stress so much about the outcome of situations.

When asked what he thinks young people should worry about less, Kenny Vance, an 80-year-old musician who splits his time between New York City and Florida, told HuffPost that the outcome of some situations should be less of a concern.

“If you go to the result before you went through the process, it’s just something that’s in your imagination ― it’s not connected to reality,” said Vance, who is the lead singer of the doo-wop group Kenny Vance and the Planotones and has a documentary, “Heart and Soul: A Love Story,” premiering on PBS this June.

Instead of overthinking a situation or allowing your negativity to prevent you from doing something, just show up, Vance said.

“I guarantee you that if you do show up, something will happen that you never expected. It’s never what you expect,” he said. “‘Don’t expect what you expect’ I think is a good aphorism.”

They wish they didn’t worry about being bored when they retired.

Ruth Snyderman-Works, 87, said she worried a lot about all of the free time she’d have once she retired. Snyderman-Works co-owned an art gallery in Philadelphia with her husband, Rick Snyderman, for more than 50 years.

“I was very worried about closing the gallery and what would I do with myself all day long after being tied up for 52 years,” Snyderman-Works told HuffPost. “Since that time, it seems like the days fly by. We live in a condo on a street that has so many people that we can socialize with.”

The couple said they stay busy and social by seeing former staff, former clients, friends, artists and people young and old and with differing beliefs than them.

“There are so many ways you can talk to people that you find places where you can have some kind of commonality,” Snyderman told HuffPost. “And if you only talk about the ones where you have differences, it’s a pretty sad and empty life, and we’ve never lived that kind of a life.”

“So, we’re not worried anymore about our time,” Snyderman-Works added. “That biggest fear has gone away.”

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Some scenarios aren’t worth stressing about.

They wish they didn’t care so much about their appearance.

“I worried a lot about appearances that I stopped worrying about in my 40s and 50s,” Naomi Goldrich, a 91-year-old who lives in California, told HuffPost. “Was I dressed right? Did I look OK? I was very tall and very skinny, and always worried that I felt like a geek.”

She added that appearance became very important, especially in high school when girls were eager to have a certain kind of sweater or certain kind of shoe. “And I come from a poor family. We didn’t have the money to buy those shoes and that sweater,” she said.

As time went on, Goldrich learned that appearance actually wasn’t that important, she said.

“As long as I was clean and groomed, my appearance didn’t matter,” Goldrich said. What really mattered “was what I did — and I set out to actively redirect my life. I took myself to law school and began to live my life away from appearances.”

They wish they didn’t catastrophize about the world ending.

“I remember maybe when I was 5 years old … adults talking about the world was going to end,” said Diane Johnson, an 85-year-old who lives in Connecticut. “I remember looking out the window for a long time waiting for it to happen.”

For Johnson, this was during the early 1940s when World War II was raging and the United States was recovering from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. People now might be worried about political strife, racial tensions or the effects of climate change. All of these are real concerns, and, much like back then, many people in the world today aren’t safe from these situations.

But, for those who are physically safe from these threats, there is a difference between worrying and catastrophizing, which is when you fall into the “what if” trap and your mind goes into fight-or-flight survival mode when it doesn’t need to. This leads to stress, anxiety and lots of worrying about a situation that you’re physically safe from.

They wish people didn’t bother worrying about getting back at someone.

Bob Wheeler, an 82-year-old from Connecticut, said he wasn’t much of a worrier at any point in his life, but he does see many folks around him worry about one thing that’s a waste of time: revenge.

“Some people … they feel that they need to take revenge. If they get up an unsolicited phone call or an email or whatever, they need to take revenge and try to get back at the person that’s doing it, and that never works,” Wheeler said. “You’d have to just ignore those things … and you’ll live longer if you do that.” (Feeling like you need to get back at someone creates stress, and stress is bad for your heart, gut health and more.)

For some, they didn’t worry at all — and it’s served them well.

Jerry Spoerl, an 87-year-old who lives in New Jersey, said instead of worrying about a situation, he did research so he could make necessary and informed changes. He also prays when he’s worried.

Worrying just creates distraction, he said. “Get the ants out of your head — just concentrate on the real things, not what might happen,” Spoerl said.

When he does deal with a worry, it’s quick. Spoerl can easily push it aside and remind himself that what he’s concerned about isn’t true or isn’t as big of a deal as he thinks.

Part of my mental approach if I have a bad thought or something, I will tell myself, ‘Jerry, you’re a good-looking old man and you should have confidence,’ and it helps me help myself,” Spoerl said.

For Jerry’s 80th birthday, his kids had shirts made with one of his go-to slogans “75% of this life is pure bullshit.” It’s a good mantra: Who wants to waste their life worrying about B.S.?

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