There are many widespread myths about aging. Most of them are simply untrue. But if we mistakenly take them as fact, chances are we won't invest the time and energy required to overcome them. The first step to avoiding these outcomes is to see them for what they really are: optional.
Today we'll look at some of the most common negative stereotypes of older people. You'll learn why they don't hold up to scrutiny. Plus, you'll find out how to avoid falling into these stereotypical traps of old age.
1. An Old Dog Can't Learn New Tricks
This myth is harmful in more ways than one. First, it's just wrong. And it leads people to underestimate the capacity of older family and friends. In reality, we maintain the ability to learn and change throughout our life.
Secondly, learning new skills or taking up new hobbies is an excellent way to exercise your mental faculties. That keeps your mind strong and sharp. Not only is “learning new tricks” possible, but it’s also important to maintain your cognitive health.
If we set limiting expectations for ourselves and those around us, then we will be unable to reach our fullest potential. Never stop learning and don't deny anyone's ability to do so– including yourself!
We are capable of learning new skills, information, and habits throughout our life. Denying this ability limits ourselves and the people around us.
2. Cognitive Decline Is Inevitable
Many people think that all older adults will eventually develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia. This is simply untrue. While these conditions are not uncommon, they're not universal. And they're definitely not inevitable.
Risk factors for Alzheimer's include smoking, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. If you're following the healthy lifestyle outlined in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program then you're already taking active steps to reduce those risk factors.
This myth sometimes appears as the stereotype that older people lose their mental acuity. You can maintain high cognitive function throughout your life. Much like exercising your body to keep it strong, exercising your mental faculties helps to keep your mind sharp.
Alzheimer's and dementia are not inevitable. Neither is a slowdown of mental function. By living a healthy lifestyle and exercising your mental faculties you can avoid cognitive decline.
3. Older People Are Always Unhappy
There are many popular media depictions of older people as grumpy, sad, or miserable. This is a lazy stereotype that ignores the reality of aging.
A study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization found that people are the happiest they've ever been around retirement age.1
As we age we accumulate experience, skills, and community. Often getting older can mean more time for favorite hobbies and activities. Old age provides a new opportunity for growth and happiness, not an inevitable decline into sadness!
The stereotype that all older people are miserable is untrue. Studies have found that people are near their happiest around retirement age. Old age provides opportunities to pursue interests and enjoy life.
4. Older Adults Don’t Contribute To Society
This idea may have taken root because many older adults are retired from their professional careers. However, this idea is tied up in a system of valuing people based only on what they can provide as laborers. Our value to society extends well beyond our jobs in many directions.
Seniors are active participants in their communities. They are active volunteers and often make regular contributions to donation-based organizations. Older people are also drivers of local economies, as consumers and users of services.
Additionally, our personal relationships are bonds that keep our society strong. The collective memories of our oldest community-members provide a connection to tradition and history that grounds our culture. Don't believe for a minute that growing old means you don't matter to society.
Retirement doesn't mean that people stop contributing to society. Older people contribute as volunteers, as consumers, as supportive family members, as involved community members, and as elders who carry the experience and memory of our history.
5. Growing Older Means Growing Lonely
Movies and television series often depict older characters who are isolated and lonely. But in reality, there is a wide variety of easily accessible social activities for older adults. Volunteer groups, clubs, senior centers, community organizations, fitness groups, and more provide ample opportunity to build and sustain meaningful relationships.
Additionally, there are many residential options that can help create a robust network of neighbors and care that prevents isolation or loneliness. Many communities built for older adults have communal spaces and activities that can make these the most social and fun years of life.
Despite the depictions of older adults as lonely, there are many ways for seniors to create and maintain a large number of relationships. Retirement or assisted living communities often have social opportunities built-in.
6. Older Folks Need More (Or Less) Sleep
This is a myth that appears in wildly inconsistent ways. Some people mistakenly believe that older adults need more sleep than younger adults. Others believe that older adults require less sleep than they used to.
Our sleep patterns may change as we age, and indeed some older people have more difficulty getting to sleep and sleeping soundly through the night. A disrupted night's sleep might need to be supported by a daytime nap, for example. However, older adults still need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults.
The CDC states that people from age 61-64 need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and that people aged 65 and older need seven to eight hours.3 As Savers know, getting enough sleep is important for bone health.
Although some older people have more difficulty getting to sleep and sleeping soundly, they still need about the same amount of sleep each night as younger adults.
7. Ever-Increasing Health Problems
Some people think that after a certain age, everyone has multiple health conditions.
Our bodies change as we age, but that doesn't mean that we inevitably grow frail and suffer from an ever-increasing list of maladies. Some people develop health conditions that require special care. But many conditions can be avoided by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Simple daily choices make an enormous impact on your health and ability to remain independent. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are foundational for staying healthy and fit. They're also foundational for avoiding falls and maintaining strong bones!
Getting older doesn't automatically cause multiple health conditions. If you lead a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet, you can avoid living out the myth that advancing age comes with a multitude of health problems.
8. It's Too Late To Get Fit
It's easy to find depictions of frail elderly people. The reality is that you can remain strong and physically capable for your entire life. Muscle loss is common with age, but it's completely avoidable. The danger isn't aging, it's physical inactivity.
Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet allow you to actually increase your fitness level and continue to expand your physical capacity. That's good for your muscles and your bones. That's why the Save Institute created SaveTrainer.
SaveTrainer is the only exercise platform designed specifically to target bone health and reverse signs of aging. It includes programs to enhance bone strength, joint health, balance, coordination, flexibility, stress relief, and more.
It's not too late to get fit. You can improve and maintain your physical fitness throughout your life with exercise and a healthy diet. SaveTrainer is the Save Institute's online workout platform. It's a handy tool to help you get and stay fit no matter your age.
What This Means To You
Take a deep breath in, and as you release it, let go of all those awful stereotypes about aging. They've been built up by years of television shows, comic strips, and old wives' tales. But they're obscuring the truth.
You remain in control of your life, your health, and your choices as you get older. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal (like SaveTrainer) to keep growing, changing, and living a healthy and rewarding life.