Saturday, November 21, 2020

Common misconceptions about getting older

Contrary to popular belief, there is no typical “older personality.” Our basic personality is formed probably before six months of age but is modifiable. Those are two underlying concepts to keep in mind as we examine the following common misconceptions about aging as outlined by Donald E. Riesenberg, M.D., in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Common Myths About Aging

Older people aren’t interested in the outside world.

The over-65 age group uses the Internet a lot. Far from being passive TV watchers, more than 100,000 individuals over age 50 participate in the non-profit Road Scholar experiential learning program each year to better understand other cultures around the world. Staying involved academically has also been a focus of many colleges and universities that have designed ongoing education programs for older residents or for the aging adult who wants to learn while on vacation. And many people, either by choice or necessity, stay involved in the workforce well beyond the typical retirement age.

Older people don’t want or need close relationships.

We are social creatures. Families, tribes, teams, and whole organizations have a better chance of survival and actually thriving when they are socially connected. The need for meaningful relationships does not diminish with age. However, there may be fewer people to relate to as we get older, and there may be physical and mental barriers that arise with age. Maintaining social relationships allows older adults to reap numerous rewards—intellectual challenges, maintaining information processing skills, feedback, and just plain sharing of feelings.

Older people contribute little to society.

With years of personal skills and professional expertise, older adults are highly valued employees, colleagues, and volunteers. Senior Corps has more than 200,000 volunteers age 55 and older who contribute to their communities by tutoring, helping small businesses, assisting in placing foster children, providing fellow seniors who are homebound with companionship and help with daily tasks, and participating in other valuable endeavors. Older workers have a strong work ethic and are great mentors and models for younger generations.

As you age, you get more set in your ways.

Older people tend to have high levels of mental resilience. The older generation’s ability to accept and rebound from adversity has been demonstrated many times. For instance, Outward Bound was founded when the owner of a British merchant shipping line noted that the survival rates among older sailors during World War II were much higher than those of younger sailors. The intergenerational program strove to pass on skills that seasoned sailors possessed, such as self-confidence, self-sufficiency, selflessness, and a general attitude of toughness, to younger generations of seamen.

Mental and physical deterioration are inevitable in old age.

There is a certain amount of loss of function as we age, but much can be done to prevent (or at least slow down) the physical and mental aging processes. Weightlifting helps retain muscle and bone integrity. Aerobic exercise and diet lessen the chances of physical and mental deterioration. Exercising the brain and continuously learning help to fight cognitive decline. Too much sedentary time spent watching TV is detrimental at any age but is particularly unhealthy for older adults, who often see their generation stereotyped in programming as feeble, forgetful, cranky, and confused. 

Older people are impoverished.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The poverty rate among Americans aged 65 and older has declined by almost 70 percent in the past five decades.” However, certain groups are still struggling financially. For example, the poverty rate among aged African Americans in 2017 was 19.3 percent and the poverty rate among the aged Hispanic population was 17 percent. Being on a fixed income as inflation takes its toll is a liability for older folks.

Older people are not interested in sex or intimacy.

This myth has persisted largely due to sexual activity and sexual health among seniors being infrequently discussed and studied. A 2017 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a national sample of adults ages 50 to 80 about their perspectives on sex and relationships. The results showed that nearly two in three respondents (65 percent) were interested in sex, and most (76 percent) agreed that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age. Forty percent of respondents indicated that they were still sexually active.

Furthermore, studies have consistently found an association between positive sexual activity and overall well-being, even among seniors. Whether one causes the other is unclear, but the mutual benefit is real. While the frequency of sexual activity tends to decline with age, one such study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that sexual activity and feeling emotionally close to one’s partner during sexual activity were associated with greater enjoyment of life in both men and women age 50 and older.

Older people can’t make good decisions about important issues.

Age brings wisdom. Cognitive skills are based on a lifetime of experience and education. Shared decision-making—whether about a medical choice, financial decision, or anything else related to an older person—should involve that person as long as they are still competent. Participation by everyone will improve outcomes.

Older adults lose their desire to live.

Older folks become more accepting of death when they have some sense of control over it. A comfortable and controlled environment is desired by most, regardless of age. Well, people want to live and live well. No one who is mentally stable desires to shorten his or her life.

Science has answered all our questions about aging.

We have so much more to learn and experience. According to the National Institute on Aging, people age 85 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. As we live longer and better, we will face even more questions, prompting us to seek answers.

We are on this bumpy road together, you are not alone!

Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be Empowered.
I send you beams of virtual good vibes. 

Do me a favor, please follow and/or comment at:
Join my Telegram Messenger channel at Alzheimers AD