- Cameron Oglesby
What most people “know” about aging just isn’t so. (And could lead to shorter lives.)
According to a 2002 National Institutes of Health study, false negative perceptions of aging can take an average of 7½ years off a person’s life. They can also cost elders and their families large expenditures for senior care that’s not needed. And according to writer and activist Ashton Applewhite, too many people have been “brainwashed by negative myths and stereotypes.” In her new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, she marshals statistics from the NIH study to debunk them.
Myth #1: Most seniors end up in nursing homes.
Fact: only 2½ percent of Americans over 65 – and 9 percent of those 85 and older – are in nursing homes. Low as those percentages are, they're dropping.
Myth #2: We’re in the middle of a dementia epidemic.
Fact: The real epidemic is fear of Alzheimer’s memory loss. Today, only one in ten people over 65 has Alzheimer’s dementia. And while our population is growing older, that already low rate is falling significantly, according to a 2017 Journal of the American Medical Association report, with people being diagnosed at older and older ages.
Myth #3: Aging means being feeble, sick and helpless.
Fact: More than half of our “oldest old” (i.e., 85+) can dress themselves, wash themselves, cook for themselves, shop for themselves, find their own glasses, and go about their everyday activities without any outside help. They may do all this a bit more slowly than they used to, but they can do it all by themselves, thank you.
Myth #4: Being old means being lonely and depressed.
Fact: You may worry, justifiably, about your parents being socially isolated. But statistically, they’re likely to be happier than you are. In a 2018 survey by Cigna health insurance, while 25 percent of Americans over 70 said they felt lonely, so did 43 percent of people ages 45-49. The loneliest group was Generation Z (18-22 years old).
Myth #5: Older people are an economic burden.
Fact: The 35 percent of the population that’s over 50 accounts for 43 percent of the total US GDP – $7.4 trillion. And that figure could very well be higher if it weren’t for…
Myth #6: Older workers are unproductive.
Fact: More than half of older US workers (56 percent) get pushed out of longtime jobs and into retirement before they want to retire. The irreversible financial damage is bad enough, but nowhere near as devastating as the loss of self-worth that comes with it.
Fact: Elders who don’t fall for these myths live longer. According to that NIH study, people who can see beyond the negative myths and stereotypes about aging live an average of 7½ years longer. They suffer from fewer debilitating stresses and anxieties. They walk faster, heal quicker, and are less likely to develop dementia (even if genetically disposed to it). Their added years are healthier, happier ones. And they’re not burdened by huge out-of-pocket costs for senior care they may not need.
The thorough, three-part assessment that’s part of our holistic senior care shows what your physical, psychosocial and mental status really is, rather than what the stereotypes might say it is. If it turns out there is a need for caregiving help, we can advise you, neutrally and objectively, about exactly what’s needed – and what isn’t. Knowing this helps preserve not only seniors’ independence and sense of self-worth, but also their health and their life savings.