5 ageing myths
Are you aged 50 and above? If so, welcome to our Active Seniors Club[ASC]. Before you enrol, you must first shed from your mind some myths about ageing. To do that is dead easy. All you have to do is change some beliefs about yourself. Remember, it’s all in themind. It’s all about beliefs.
Here are five common myths (beliefs) you need to shed[1]
1. The Myth of Senility Older people "naturally" grow more confused and child-like, become forgetful, and lose contact with reality. They become "senile" (meaning they’re mentally deficient)
Reality That senility’ goes with old age is a major misconception. Senility refers to abnormal deterioration in the mental functions of some older people. This is shown in symptoms like forgetfulness, being confused, and changing behaviour and personality. But these are not normal signs of aging. For example, the strongest risk for Alzheimer'sdisease (a common form of dementia) is age, “but dementia is not an inevitable consequence of age nor does it only affect the elderly”…. Early onset dementia, alcohol induced dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies are other examples of dementia that are not related to old age.[2]Many active older people don’t show these symptoms despite the fact that they may be very old. On the other hand, you can certainly see such symptoms with younger people. Also, there is some evidence that senility could be one of the side-effects of common forms of medication.[3]
2. The myth of dependence Older people become helpless. They depend on other as they cannot take care of themselves
Reality Only about 5% of all older people are institutionalized. The majority of older people are not healthy and active, particularly those under 80 years old.[4]They are not helpless or dependent.[5]Most can – and do – take care of themselves. 94% of older people live independently. “In 2003 only 5% of people in Australia aged 60 and older were in hospitals or aged care homes.”[6] Older people enjoy many activities enjoyed by younger people. Very few older persons require specializedproducts. Most enjoy the environments enjoyed by younger people.
3. The Myth of disability Older people have severe functional disabilities. They experience a greater number of associated diseases than those with less severe disabilities
Reality This belief is based on the idea that older people necessarily lose normal functioning abilities and that leads to more diseases. But there is no correlation (no logical connection) between the severity of a functional disability and the number of associated diseases. It is true that incidences of both increase with age. However, the number of diseases affecting a person has nothing to do with a physical disability. Vigorous people of any age can acquire several diseases. On the other hand, many older people with severe functional disabilities remain healthy.An old man with a walking stick is not necessarily obese. Nor does it mean he has diabetes, high blood pressure or bad cholesterol levels.
4. The rocking-chair myth As older people age, they become inactive and unproductive
Reality It is true that many older people become couch potatoes. But that’s through personal life-style choice. That’s nothing to do with aging. These same life-style factors result in many older becoming inactive. They’re the same environmental factors that cause many younger people to be obese. But many older people stay active for as long as possible. These are people who know the human body is designed for movement. It is TV and media fads that turn many (young and old) into couch potatoes.
5. The myth of disability Older persons are incapable of learning and refuse to adapt to new ways
Reality: It is true that older people experience some difficulty with short-term memory. But their long-term memory generally remains sound. Besides, that does not affect their ability to learn.[7] Cognitive functioning does not decline with age.[8] There are people doing degrees – including Ph Ds – even though they may be aged 60 or older. There are increasing numbers of older people pursuing university studies while others attend informal classes through the University of the Third Age.[9] Many learn new things to allow them to take part in activities and leisure interests. You may be in your 60s but it is not true that you are too old to learn a new and difficult language such as the Chinese language.
So, to be eligible for membership of the ASC, we need to throw away these most common beliefs (myths) about ageing. Do you have these beliefs? Test it this way. Looking back 10 years ago, you felt you were really old. Was it because you accepted all these myths about older people? Would you now – looking back 10 years later – feel you were a bit silly believing you were too old to do things that you are now doing?
It is true we can’t change stop the ageing process. But we can and should change the way we think about ourselves as we age. There is much wisdom in the following observation: “If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.”[10]