Men Avoid Medical Care and Don't Use Self-Help

Men Avoid Medical Care and Don't Use Self-Help

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Show me someone who says, "I am not as old as I used to be" and I will show you a person who is aging right. Just the other day I asked a friend on his 70th birthday to share his reflections on aging and he said, "I am a lot smarter and healthier than I ever was." Wow! That is some accomplishment!

It was particularly pleasing to get such an answer from a man. Men are notorious for letting their physical and mental fitness slide by, as they get older. The more the signs of declining fitness begin to pile up on the male psyche, the more indifferent men become to their health.

Why do men don't want to go to doctors even for their regular check ups, or try to learn about such matters as nutrition, antioxidants or fitness training? The other day I saw a lady on a treadmill, doing her walking and reading a book about forgiveness. How often do you see men reading self-help books on a treadmill or anywhere?

Men are afraid of identifying any signs of mental or emotional weakness or of seeing their bodies anything less than steel-like. Gail Sheehy, an expert on life cycle issues, in her recent book, Understanding Men's Passage, has this to say about the male ego: Men define their masculinity by expecting themselves to be eternally strong and be able to overcome any obstacle alone.

In the movie, Moonstruck, a befuddled female asks her male friend, "Why do men chase women? Her friend gives a rather profound answer, "Because they are afraid of death." Could there be some truth in it? Do some men equate the loss of sexual ability to death? Is that why some men are willing to take the risk of potentially serious side effects of Viagra?

The fable regarding Samson losing his power as his hair was cut off taps into a deep-seated fear of men about the "male balding pattern." Some males have begun promoting the idea that baldness is sexy, but the idea doesn't seem to be catching on. It is best to develop a sense of humor about it.

With the pending threat of layoffs, downsizing by the Corporate America. and society's veneration of youth, some older men feel threatened by loss of personal worth. The elderly find themselves redundant in a fast paced society such as ours. The ambitious, vocal, brighter and computer savvy younger generation dominates the economy. There was a time when the average age of becoming a millionaire was sixty-plus. Today, more and more young people are hitting the million mark. Political leadership (with the exception of the present U.S. cabinet) is in the hands of increasingly younger people.

While men, as they grow older, tend to become more homebodies and physically and emotionally dependent on their partners, women become more independent and outward bound. As their grown up children leave home, women too want to get out of the house more, explore the town or see the world.

When women, who had put their career on hold for the sake of their young ones, reconvene at the job market, they find their second identity in a career. Men, on the other hand, tend to emotionally withdraw from the world of the work. However, the power to earn and provide for their families remains important for them. Therefore, any threat of loss of this power can be devastating.

It would be terrific if we all could follow the rosy path of roaring into the "flourishing forties," and march into the "fearless fifties" with a bang. From fearless fifties, we strut into the "influential sixties." And, for the remaining years, to borrow the terminology of Erik Erikson, an expert on human identity and life cycle, fulfill our lives through the "age of integrity," "generativity," and spiritual attainment. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the older age end up on the path of stagnation and despair.

For the most part, we are responsible for what happens in our lives. Part of the problem is that we spend a lot of time living in a state of denial. He who buries his head in the sand leaves even more vulnerable parts of his body totally exposed. To acknowledge the problem right away and recognize ones' vulnerability is not only a sign of strength, but also a powerful means of self-protection.

Some people take action only when a problem has gone too far. For example, people make required changes only after they have developed a serious illness such as heart disease, emphysema or colon cancer. They could have obtained a far more satisfactory outcome, had they made those changes some years before.

Why don't men talk to their friends about what is on their mind, as much as women do? Talking about a problem with a friend is not a sign of personal failure. Listening to yourself as you talk with a friend about your problem may help you to think of new solutions and ideas.

Go for your physical checkups without delay. Above all, don't get upset with your partner because he or she is urging you to go and talk with your doctor.

Satchel Paige, a famous basketball pitcher, once said, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you wuz?"

E-mail a link to this article to a friend. 

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor