10 Myths About Aging
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We all make assumptions about aging, especially during our younger years, as to what it is like to grow “old”. Here are the most common misconceptions related to aging and older adults as published by the NIH’s National Institute on Aging.
1. Depression and loneliness are normal in older adults FALSE! Some older adults may experience feelings of depression, anxiety, or sadness from being alone or isolated, but this is not part of the normal aging process. In fact, studies show that older adults are more resilient and are less likely to experience depression than young adults.
2. The older I get, the less sleep I need. FALSE! A common misconception is that our sleep needs decline as we age. The fact is that older adults need the same 7 to 9 hours of sleep as all adults. Adequate sleep can help reduce the risk of falls and improve overall mental well-being.
3. Older adults can’t learn new things. FALSE! Our brains are amazing organs and there is a lot of new evidence about the neuroplasticity of our brains. Aging does come with cognitive changes but that is often offset by the insights and wisdom of life experiences.
4. It is inevitable that older people end up with dementia. FALSE! Know that dementia is not a normal part of aging. While the risk of dementia increases with age, it is not inevitable. Forgetfulness is often related to not being mindful about our actions.
5. Older adults should take it easy and avoid exercise to avoid injuries. FALSE! Numerous studies have shown that we have much more to gain by exercise, than we have to lose. There are appropriate exercises for almost anyone, regardless of age or health condition. Exercise does not only benefit us physically, it is also great for our mental health.
6. If a family member has Alzheimer’s disease, I will have it, too. FALSE! While it is true that a family history of Alzheimer’s disease may increase risk, that does not necessarily mean that someone will develop the disease. Environmental and lifestyle factors may also affect a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s. To learn more, see Alzheimer’s genetics and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Now that I am older, I will have to give up driving. FALSE! In 2016, about 20% or some 41.7 million licensed drivers were 65 years of age or older, and that number will steadily increase even further as our population ages. The determining factor when to stop driving should not be based on age, but on someone’s ability to drive safely. See driving safety for older adults.
8. Only women need to worry about osteoporosis. FALSE! While osteoporosis is more common in women, one in five men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture, and by age 65 to 70, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate.
9. I’m “too old” to quit smoking. FALSE! It does not matter how old you are or how many years someone has been smoking, quitting at any time improves your health, and the benefits of quitting are almost immediate. Learn more about how to quit smoking and where to find help here.
10. My blood pressure has lowered or returned to normal, so I can stop taking my medication(s).
FALSE! High blood pressure or hypertension is very common among older adults. If you are on blood pressure medications and find that your blood pressure is dropping into normal levels, it probably means the medications and your lifestyle changes are working. Do not stop taking your medication without discussing your options with your doctor.