Getting older should never mean that a person is looked down on or disrespected. Unfortunately, there are plenty of myths about aging that perpetuate stereotypes that, in turn, lead to disrespect of the elderly. Unfortunately, this disrespect can rise to the level of abuse or neglect. Here, we want to discuss five of the most common myths about aging.
Forgetfulness (or Dementia) is Inevitable with Age
While it may seem like a joke to say, “They only forgot that because they are getting older,” the reality is that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not inevitable parts of aging. In fact, dementia is not a normal part of aging at all. While the risk of developing dementia does indeed grow as a person gets older, there are many more elderly people living without any form of dementia than there are with dementia.
Occasionally forgetting an appointment or losing items around the house may be signs of mild forgetfulness, which is certainly common as a person gets older. However, this by no means indicates that a person has a serious cognitive problem.
Older People Don’t Contribute Much to Society
In order to bust this myth, we would only have to point to any number of people considered “elderly” who contribute immensely to our society (Just think about how much Betty White has contributed to our entertainment). Unfortunately, elderly people face significant discrimination when it comes to participating in society, including in the workforce. The reality is that elderly people have so much more practical experience than everybody else that it would be ridiculous to assume that they do not contribute to society. In many non-Western cultures, the elderly are revered and respected, particularly when it comes to going to them for advice about conflicts.
Elders Aren’t Capable of Making Good Decisions
If anything, this is a stereotype that belongs to teenagers. In fact, studies have shown that our brains do not finish fully developing until we reached the age of 25. Older adults are quite capable of making sound decisions. In fact, they have a lifetime of experience that they can use to guide them when making the best decision for whatever situation they are in.
Older People Are Always Lonely
This myth is certainly not true, and the only real reason that many elderly people are lonely is because their younger relatives stereotype them into this “depression and loneliness” category. Yes, some people do find themselves isolated and alone as they age, and this can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. However, any person who finds themselves isolated will experience depression and anxiety, regardless of their age. Older people who have regular access to family and friends and various types of activities are much less likely to experience loneliness and depression.
Older Adults Should Avoid Exercise
Exercise is crucial for the health and well-being of the elderly. Somehow, many people assume that older people should take it easier because they are more “fragile,” but the reality is that there are safe ways for people of every age to exercise. Physical activity can help manage many chronic conditions, and activity can also help keep depression and anxiety at bay.