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10 Aging Myths, Debunked
We’re living in an aging country. By 2060, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is expected to double from 46 million to more than 98 million. Still, there are plenty of misconceptions about aging and the older population in general. By debunking popular myths about aging, we can change the way we view growing older and change the way we act toward seniors.
Here are some common myths about aging and the reality behind these statements.
Myth: Falling is something to expect when you age.
Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging, but the risk of falling increases as you age. More than 1 in 4 older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevent falls by doing strength and balance exercises, getting regular eye exams, and asking your doctor to evaluate your fall risk. Also, make your home safer by installing grab bars in your bathroom, put railings on both sides of stairs, ensure your home is well-lit, and move items like throw rugs and clutter that could be tripped over.
Myth: Older seniors must rely on their adult children or caregivers to make all their healthcare decisions.
Reality: Seniors don’t necessarily have to rely on their adult children or caregivers to make healthcare decisions for them. Older adults who feel comfortable making their own medical decisions can continue doing so, or they can ask their caregiver for guidance when needed.
It’s beneficial for a caregiver or adult child to step in if the senior cannot make their own medical decisions. However, seniors benefit from having a healthcare advocate, or someone who can accompany them to medical appointments and serve as a “second set of ears.”
Myth: Older people don’t need close friends or socialization.
Reality: Humans are social creatures. Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert, you need some level of human interaction to stay happy. Maintaining social relationships allows older adults to share their feelings, maintain information processing skills, get feedback, and stay sharp mentally.
Myth: People lose their memory as they get older.
Reality: Not every older person experiences a memory loss disorder like dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to Psychology Today, only six to eight percent of people over age 65 have been diagnosed with dementia. You can keep your memory sharp by challenging your brain with mental exercises—read a book, volunteer for a cause, play chess or bridge, do puzzles, and more.
Myth: Older adults don’t contribute much.
Reality: Volunteerism among older adults has skyrocketed—in fact, it’s estimated that over half of adults 55 and older volunteer formally and informally. The older population also has plenty of wisdom to share about their life experiences.
Myth: I should live alone if my spouse dies.
Reality: While some older adults choose to live alone after losing their spouse, that isn’t the only option. Some older folks decide to move in with a family member, such as an adult child. Or, they may choose to move to an assisted living community where they can live independently, yet have quick access to medical care and socialization. Those with medical issues that prevent them from safely living alone may choose a long-term care facility.
Myth: I shouldn’t exercise because I have bad knees.
Reality: Staying active is still possible even if you have muscle or joint pain, or a nervous system disorder. It’s never too late to start exercising—talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about the best types of exercises for your abilities.
Myth: Older people are depressed.
Reality: Most older adults are not depressed; depression is not a normal part of growing old, and age alone is not a risk factor for depression. However, depression later in life frequently appears alongside physical illnesses like stroke, heart disease, and hip fractures. If you or an older loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression like frequent sadness, apathy, or excessive crying, it’s important to visit the doctor.
Myth: Older people are out of touch with the outside world.
Reality: Some common stereotypes label older adults as feeble, cranky, confused, or forgetful. It’s an unfair blanket statement to assume every person over a certain age has the same views and qualities. Older people are often very involved with current events and popular culture.
Myth: Older people can’t be trusted to make decisions about important issues.
Reality: About 80 percent of older adults are healthy enough to carry out their normal activities, according to studies reported in Psychology Today. Even in the early stages of dementia, older adults retain their abilities to understand information and make important life choices. With age brings wisdom, and older adults have a lifetime of experience and education to draw from.