10 Of The Most Common Myths About Aging

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The fastest growing segment of the population is 65 and older. As baby boomers grow older and birth rates slow, this trend will continue and older adults will comprise a larger and larger segment of our population. Even though this population is larger than ever, myths and misconceptions about them abound. As this population grows, it is even more important to dispel and debunk 10 biggest myths about aging.


1. Aging is depressing

Not only is aging not depressing, older adults are actually the happiest of all age groups! About 40 percent of the people of age 65 and older say they were very happy compared to only 33 percent of individuals between 35 to 49. In fact, for many years research has shown there is a “U-curve of happiness” in which happiness is actually lowest among individuals in their late 40s or early 50s. After that, happiness continues to increase with each year of age.


2. Aging leads to lack of interest in sex and intimacy

Perhaps one of the most common myths is the idea that older individuals no longer have a desire for sex and intimacy.  However, individuals are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. For healthy individuals, sexual activity and physical intimacy can persist well into their 80s or 90s. When compared to younger counterparts, older individuals are more likely to be in a committed long-term relationship with a partner who they feel confident and comfortable with. Countless studies have shown intimacy and sex are common and healthy among older adults!

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3. Aging leads to memory loss

“Senior moments” are not normal. Let’s face it, individuals of all ages are likely to misplace their keys or forget things from time to time. And, while some change in thinking patterns is a normal part of the aging process, memory loss is not.  Sometimes difficulty with memory may be due to related medical conditions and sometimes it may be related to dementia. No matter what the cause, if you or a loved one is experiencing a noticeable change in memory, it is important to talk to your doctor about it. This should never be attributed a simply a “normal part of aging.”


4. Older individuals are bad drivers

We’ve all seen older drivers portrayed in the media as the little old lady hunched over behind the steering wheel driving well below the speed limit.  Well, the reality is older adults are not all bad drivers. In fact, compared to younger individuals, older adults have fewer crashes per mile driven. They are less likely to drive while intoxicated or texting. And, they are also more likely to self-regulate or restrict driving during bad weather, at night, and on unfamiliar roads. Unfortunately, when involved in a crash, older individuals are more likely to suffer fatal injuries. However, this is likely tied to age-associated health conditions.


5. Aging means losing all your teeth

This myth is often shown in popular media. You know, the one where an old man has his dentures or false teeth fall out during dinner. Well, as it turns out, this too is a myth. While it is true that some individuals will lose teeth as they age, this is not something that happens to everyone. In fact, only about 1 in 5 individuals have lost all their teeth. Even in the oldest age group, 75 and older, only about 1 in 4 individuals have lost all their teeth.

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6. Falls are a normal part of aging

While it is true that many older individuals will experience a fall, this is certainly not a normal or inevitable part of aging. Evidence shows that many falls can be prevented through medication adjustments, having your vision checked, strength and balance exercises, and keeping your home free of tripping hazards. Falls are dangerous and should never be dismissed as “normal.”


7. Older adults are not productive employees

Another common misconception is the idea that older adults are slower, less productive employees. However, research has shown that about 75% of individuals agree that older adults have a better work ethic than younger generations. Beyond work ethic, older individuals are likely to bring years of experience with them. This leads to better leadership skills and more experience from which to draw.


8. Aging leads to sickness and disability

While the vast majority of older adults have a chronic condition such as hypertension or high cholesterol, so do many middle age adults. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all older individuals have drastically worse health than their younger counterparts. Most of these conditions are manageable with the help of a medical provider. Many individuals live active, healthy lives well into their 80s or 90s.

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9. Most older people will end up in a nursing home

In the U.S. only about 5% of individuals age 65 and older live in a long-term care facility or nursing home. Even among individuals over the age of 90, only about half live in these settings. Most individuals want to “age in place” in the home they currently live in. The good news is most people are able to do so.


10. Older individuals are pretty much all the same

Perhaps the most common myth surrounding aging is the idea that aging looks the same for everyone or that older individuals are pretty much the same. To lump all individuals 65 and older in one broad category means that we’re saying individuals as much as 40 years apart are the same. I dare say most people would not tell a 20-year old woman that she is basically the same as a 55-year old!  So, we definitely should not do this to a 60-year old and a 95 year old. The truth is even two older individuals who are the same age are likely very different. Two 80-year olds each have 80 years of totally different lived experiences making them each unique individuals. Diversity and experiences make us who we are and older individuals are no different!


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With these 10 myths and other countless stereotypes related to aging, we must begin to reimagine the way we think about growing older. It’s up to us to dispel these misconceptions not only for today’s older adults, but also for our future selves. Because let’s face it, no matter what age we are now, we’re all growing older one day at a time.