Common Myths about Aging

Atrayee De
March 02, 2017
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Common Myths about Aging

In introducing the concept of normal aging, the process in the contemporary times has generally reinforced certain negative stereotypes of the elderly residing in our society. In the broadest sense, aging reflects all the possible changes that occur over the course of our lives. We grow. We develop. We reach maturity. To the young, aging is quite exciting-it leads to the later bedtimes and curfews, and more of independence. By the time we attain our middle age, another candle seems to fill up the top of our birthday cake. It's hard not to notice some of the harmless cosmetic changes such as the gray hair and wrinkles.

As I was reading , I came across this longitudinal study, which was conducted by the BLSA, an organization that repeatedly evaluates people over the time rather than comparing a group of young people to a group of old people, as in cases of a cross-sectional study. However, some changes that we have long thought of as normal aging can be, in fact, be the signs of a potential disease. Take, for example, a sudden change in personality. A common belief is that people become rather cranky, depressed, and withdrawn as they get older. But an analysis of long-term data from the BLSA showed that an adult's personality generally does not get affected by a change because of aging above 30.

People who are cheerful and assertive when they are younger will likely be the same even when they are about 80 years of age. The BLSA finding suggests that significant changes in personality are not due to the normal aging, but instead may be early signs of the disease or dementia. Certain conditions do occur but their prevalence and severity have been quite exaggerated and in most circumstances are nothing but mere myths. Therefore in the light of the ongoing myths, here are some usually floating myths about the elderly that will help you get a better understanding about them and their real status. They have also been enlisted to draw the required comparison with the sheer reality, so that we do not turn a blind eye towards the elderly.

MYTH 1: All old people are the alike, they are boring and usually cranky.

REALITY: There is a comparatively larger variety among older people than amongst any other age group. It is therefore very sad to not that they are termed as being alike, boring and cranky , on the contrary they are more wiser, content with their lives and sober. Speaking from experience, usually elderly are seen as the shoulder to cry on by many. They are usually fun loving and happy, of course there are times of depression, but hey... it's common for all age groups alike right therefore it would be very wrong on our part to categorize them under such negative stereotypes, while the true picture is quite different.

MYTH 2: Old people are senile that is, to say that they suffer from memory, disorientation, and a sort of a weird behavior

REALITY: It is true that aging takes a toll on us human beings but that does not mean that all of them suffer from cognitive degeneration. Research shows that about 80 % of the older adults are healthy enough to carry out their normal activities. Dementia and its allied diseases could affect any age groups these days. It is a myth that only elders are the ones having dementia, even children and young adults have symptoms of the same. It is true however that they have chances of having it more because of their age but it does not definitely mean that all people suffering even from dementia have a bizarre or weird behavior. It depends simply on the stage of the dementia. Plus it's quite sad to note such categorization for it's a very painful disease for both the sufferer and his or her near and dear ones so we should rather be welcoming towards them and give them the little support for today it is them who are suffering, tomorrow it could be us.

MYTH 3: The basic human needs of an older person are different from those of younger generation.

REALITY: Human needs do not change with age. We are all the same. We all require food, clothing and shelter. But apart from that as we are the most able species in the world we also require love and affection, and this is something that everyone of us needs, be it a child and adult or even an older person. Love is the bond that ties us together and makes us who we are i.e., a social animal. Therefore it would again be wrong on our part to make such a primitive classification. Times have changed and so should our thinking as well. They are just like us in fact a better version of us, we should love them for who they are, for we never really know when we might lose them from our lives.

MYTH 4: All old people are necessarily incompetent or useless.

REALITY: Many old people even in their early stages of dementia, can actually retain their abilities to understand and also appreciate the information they are given and the reason to make important life choices or decisions. Physical disabilities are often incorrectly linked to intellectual deficits. Age makes people wiser and we thus cannot categorize their physical impairments as means to stereotype their cognitive capabilities.

MYTH 5: All old people suffer from suffer from a rather backward thought process

REALITY: There is the staunch belief that elders shy away from new technologies such as use of computers and even the Internet. It is also believed that they peruse a rather backward outlook towards things and life in general. This however is a far cry from the strings of reality for not everyone is the same. In the sense even many young individuals have a backward thought process about things and life in general. Research shows 58% of our youth still believe that women are to be considered as a property of her husband. Stigmas like this is therefore prevalent in almost all age groups and thus only classifying and blaming the old people would not help. Change comes when you try to change yourself first rather than criticize others.

MYTH 6: As people age, their ability to learn often diminishes or stops in some cases.

REALITY: Learning patterns are susceptible to changes and the speed of learning may diminish comparatively but the basic capacity to learn still remains intact. Of course the pace or rate of grasping things decrease. This is because aging is a natural phenomenon and it has to happen, but still there are many old people who strive hard enough to learn and research shows that judges, academicians even if they are above a certain age limit still have better retention abilities as compared to certain college students.

MYTH 7: It is easier for old people to learn new things than it is to recall things from the past.

REALITY: The exact opposite is quite true, that is to say that it is easier to remember things from the past than it is to learn new things. Old people as observed have a tendency to quote examples from their past while in conversation about some topic in hand but when it comes to learning new things their cognitive capacity shows some detrimental results.

MYTH 8: Natural forgetfulness is likely to indicate the onset of dementia.

REALITY: Memory loss can be caused by even certain forms of medications, medical conditions, or even could be because of the onset of certain traumatic incident or by depression related to life events. Forgetfulness may be an early sign of dementia but it does not necessarily mean that a person will be diagnosed with the severe disease of dementia. Therefore we should show a doctor in such cases and take his opinion if we have the slightest hint that it could be dementia rather than just assume it is dementia. Prevention is always better than cure especially in cases as severe as dementia which has no permanent cure.

MYTH 9: All old people are usually depressed or prone to depression

REALITY: Most of the older adults, are not most of the time depressed. Depression is not a normal part and parcel of the process of growing old but rather it is an illness that needs to be treated. Age alone is not a risk factor for causing depression. It is also important to note here that anyone could be a victim of depression and not necessarily the old people. Factors commonly contributing to depression include lack of companionship, lack of love, lack of sleep etc. The course of depression in the elderly is identical to that of any younger persons.

The response of depression to treatment appears as positive as at any other life stages. Depression in late life is frequently observed as a co-morbid with physical illness such as - stroke, or heart disease, diabetes, and / or hip fractures, and other forms of injuries. If caregivers misinterpret the very nature and different forms of depression, they may not seek the right diagnosis and treatment, and the results of which could be life threatening too at times. It is also commonly held that if an older person does not look depressed, he/she does not feel depressed.

In reality depression often causes physical problems such as the loss of energy, considerably low appetite and weight, trouble sleeping, social withdrawals, and even complaints of pain. Depression can also make someone agitated and even delusional at times. Depression is often mistaken for an apathy which has been shown to be a different syndrome from that of the true nature of depression. The best cure for a depression prone individual from any age group is usually unconditional love and care.

If you think about aging in a very basic manner stripped of its social implications, what is it about the accumulation of years and experiences that distresses so many people? With every tick of the clock and turn of the calendar's page most people can find some or the other benefit to time's passing. After all, all thee sayings like you live, you learn and time heals all haven't really rooted themselves in our vernacular for nothing, right. When the Pew Research Center asked a group of American senior citizens what they thought about the future inventions, only 3% of those polled had interest in the time travel or the reversal of the aging process. They were essentially happy just the way they were at the time. And yet, we are continually bombarded with the anti-aging products and tempted with the youth restoring plastic surgery. Aging needs to be viewed with a rather optimistic perspective and the same should also be true when thinking about the old people. This is because old people are certainly not what the myths put forth about them. Aging like stated above is a natural phenomenon which every one of us has to undergo over the years there is no real escape from it, therefore we should keep the old people happy, and updated with the contemporary changes, for we never really know when it might be the last day when we actually see them.

Atrayee De

Atrayee De

Hello everyone, I am a law student, I love reading, researching and singing. Apart from these I also love to dress up, and stay updated with the on going fashion and beauty trends of the glamour industry!

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