Like it or not, we are all growing older. And somewhere along the aging process, we will reach a point where society considers us mature. The question is, will the public’s general perceptions about what it means to get old match our own?
Many popular stereotypes depict aging as a state of human decline—portraying elders as marred by dependency, diminished health, mental incompetence, and isolation. On the other hand, aging adults foresee their older selves positively, as being self-sufficient with unlimited leisure time and active social calendars. Sadly, negative impressions leave many people considering aging a condition to dread or avoid.
We think it’s time to address the myths that produce cynical stereotypes surrounding aging. With that end in mind, here are some truths to dispel common misperceptions about what you should expect as you grow older.
Myth: You will become a grouch
With all the discouraging notions about aging, it’s little wonder that many people associate depression and grouchiness with older adults. However, research shows that we tend to become happiest upon reaching our senior years. Maybe it‘s the wisdom attributed to being older or that we adjust our expectations later in life, but research confirms that older Americans are happier than other age groups.
Staying positive about aging can help you live longer. Happy people tend to possess a higher resistance to stress and are more likely to lead healthy lifestyles. So, avoid becoming a grouch by doing things that bring you joy.
Myth: Your eyesight will fail
Your eyesight could indeed weaken as you age. What’s more, you could suffer from diminished hearing, memory loss, and a whole list of other age-related health issues. But failing eyesight is an excellent example of a myth about health and aging.
Changes in vision can begin when you are five or 65. And requiring a stronger eyeglass prescription is not an indication that you will lose sight entirely as you get older. As with most health concerns, there are precautions you can take to protect your vision. Avoid behaviors that can irritate your eyes, such as smoking or viewing direct sunlight. Following a healthful diet that is rich in vitamin C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can help limit your risk of cataracts or age-related macular degeneration. Of course, you’ll want to discuss any vision changes with your physician or optometrist.
Just because we associate specific ailments with older adults doesn’t make them inevitable for you.
Myth: You will become feeble and frail
Contrary to widespread belief, physical weakness is not an automatic part of getting older. Sure, strength and muscle mass often decline with aging. But remaining active can minimize those changes. Regular exercise does wonders to keeping you fit and flexible, improving your bone density, and increasing your overall endurance.
You’ll want to consult with a physician before beginning any new exercise program to learn what is safe and appropriate for your health and fitness level. However, most seniors who are otherwise healthy can take steps to avoid frailty and maintain the ability to go about their daily activities.
Myth: You will suffer from loneliness
Social isolation is a well-known problem for older adults, especially those who are widowed or have mobility issues. But just as you can take action to avoid or delay age-related illnesses, staying active can keep you from feeling alone. Make efforts to engage socially with friends and family members. Get involved at your local senior center, church, or fitness center.
At Sunset Communities, we offer residents countless opportunities to join in life-enriching activities, share mealtimes, interact with pets, and make new friends. We see firsthand how an active social life can prevent isolation. Indeed, many new residents overcome the loneliness they experienced living at home.
Myth: You will become set in your ways
A common opinion about older people is that they are inherently stubborn and resistant to change. Yet, there is probably no age group better at adapting to new situations. After all, seniors have spent lifetimes witnessing and adjusting to change.
Possessed with mental resilience, older adults have long demonstrated the toughness to rebound from adversities from world wars to great depressions. And while older generations can often be hesitant to alter longheld opinions, they maintain the human ability to adapt their thinking.
Myth: You will fall often
Another myth is that falling is a natural part of getting older. But that’s false. While falling is the cause of many injuries, most falls are accidental and preventable.
Start by making your home safe from falls. Clear all hallways and high-traffic areas, and remove loose area rugs and electrical cords in walkways that are potential tripping hazards. Decluttering your home helps lower your risk of falling and experiencing a severe injury.
Some common prescription medications can cause dizziness in some people, so review your medications’ side effects with your physician. And avoid venturing outdoors in slippery weather conditions.
Myth: You have no control over how you age
When assessing your health, it’s standard for medical professionals to inquire about genetics and any family histories of disease. Although numerous conditions are hereditary, lifestyle has more influence over our health. In other words, just because your parents or grandparents enjoyed long and healthy lives is no reason to take your good health for granted. Likewise, the sound choices you make now can help spare you the various health problems your family faced.
It turns out that how we age usually depends on whether we engage in healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Therefore, rather than focusing too much on genetics, concentrate on developing healthy practices such as getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise.