We live in a culture that values youth, desperately clinging to it at all costs with a debilitating fear of ageing to boot. Everywhere you look there’s advice to slow down ageing from facial and body creams to foods you should eat and physical exercises to do. For the bold and courageous, there are even certain cosmetic surgical procedures to reverse the effects of time. In one study conducted in the U.S., 87% of respondents said they were scared of growing old. Here are a few of the most common myths that fortify this fear.
Ageing is depressing
There’s a wide held belief that growing old is sad and depressing. That is not true. Studies find that older adults are the happiest of all age groups. One study on ageing found that about 40% of people 65 years and older reported being happy compared to only 33% of people aged 35-49 years old.
Research consistently shows that happiness is lowest among individuals in their late 40’s and early 50’s and after that continues to increase with each year of age.
Other studies have found that older adults are less likely to experience depression than young adults. A similar misconception is that old people are filled with regrets. Studies find that 45% of people 75 years and older believe in the power of counting their blessings which is a powerful factor in happiness and satisfaction levels.
Old people need less sleep
There’s a widespread misconception that a person’s sleep needs decline with age. That is not true, older adults need as much sleep as younger people, approximately 7-9 hours each night. Ageing does not minimize the importance of sleep in boosting overall health. Quality sleep can also help reduce the risk of falls and improve overall mental well-being.
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Old people contribute little to society
This is the height of capitalist logic, people only matter to the extent that they can contribute financially. As soon as someone is too old to work, they cease to matter. This equation of the value of human life to money is reprehensible and only serves to fuel the fear of ageing and the abuse of old and disabled people. In any case, many old people remain active in their communities with some for a variety of reasons including choice and poverty working long after the legal retirement age.
Older people feel old and frail
One research on ageing found that even as people age, they continue to feel relatively young. In fact, 60% of people 65 years old and over, state that they feel younger than their biological age. You also don’t have to be frail, with experts recommending staying active as you age to stay fit.
Dementia or senility is an inevitable part of ageing
Dementia is a medical condition, not a normal part of growing old. One 2015 study found that globally, only 5.2% of people over the age of 60 are living with dementia. The age-related mental decline can be avoided by eating a balanced diet, staying active, and staying mentally active through learning and challenging yourself.
A myth that accompanies this is that as you age your ability to learn stops. Learning patterns may change as well as speed but your basic capacity to learn remains. Another similar myth is that living with multiple chronic illnesses is inevitable. Genetics may increase the likelihood of developing certain conditions but it’s not inescapable especially with exercise and healthy eating.
Older adults should avoid exercise
Experts say exercising is beneficial to old people’s physical and mental health. Regular and appropriate exercise that takes into account your physical condition can ward frailty, decrease the risk of injury, and improve overall health.
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Ageing leads to a lack of interest in sex
The idea that old people no longer have a desire for sex and intimacy is misguided. For healthy people, sexual activity and physical intimacy can persist well into their 80s and 90s. One study on healthy ageing that polled respondents between 50-80 years old found that 65% of the respondents were interested in sex with 76% agreeing that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age. 40% of them also reported that they were still sexually active.
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