What do you picture in your mind when you think of an older person?
Are they lonely and frail? Are they sitting in a rocking chair waiting for life to pass them by? Are they sick and laying down on a hospital/hospice bed?
Below are some myths about old age:
1. Depression and loneliness are normal in older adults.
2. The older I get, the less sleep I need.
3. Older adults can’t learn new things.
4. It is inevitable that older people will get dementia.
5. Older adults should take it easy and avoid exercise so they don’t get injured.
6. If a family member has Alzheimer’s disease, I will have it, too.
7. Now that I am older, I will have to give up driving.
8. Only women need to worry about osteoporosis.
9. I’m “too old” to quit smoking.
10. My blood pressure has lowered or returned to normal, so I can stop taking my medication.
How many of us have grown up hearing the common myths about getting older?
I specifically hear “I can’t do this/that because I’m old” or “don’t do this/that because you are old” even among people in their late 20’s and 30’s. I have fallen for this trap many times and my parents constantly remind me of this, millions of times. These common misconceptions lead many people to a more sedentary life and miss many opportunities of doing the things they want or wish they could do.
According to research by the US census, the life expectancy of the US population is increasing rapidly thanks to advances in technology and medicine, which leads to the question: what kind of life do we want to live as we get older? Are we healthy enough to live the life that we want in the latter years of our life?
The CDC states that “Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older, and the age-adjusted fall death rate is increasing.”
This is due to the fact that many people are getting weaker, have poor balance, and after a fall are more fearful to get injured again which makes their bodies even weaker. It is a fact that we lose muscle and functionality of our bodies as we age. We might lose some cognitive function as well but what many people do not realize is that we can control to some extent the effects of aging in our bodies. The common mistake we make is that we start doing less because of our misconception about getting older and this in turns is making us frail.
I learned this in the workshop with FAI (functional Aging Institute) that what determines our health and lifespan is 20% genetics and 80% lifestyle. This means that 80% of what we do determines the way we live as we age and Exercise is the most powerful intervention to enhance, maintain, or restore function in older adults that we know of.
In conclusion, the aging process is plastic and can be positively modified by our lifestyle choices such as exercise, nutrition, cognition and maintaining healthy social relationships.
Although we are getting older,
We can still learn new skills and tricks
We can get stronger
We can get healthier
We can travel and enjoy life
What we do, eat and think matters as we progress in life. The question is what do older adults need to be able to do? What would they like to do? And do they wish they could do it?
Now, after reading this, what is the picture you imagine of getting old?
Thank you for reading my 1st blog. I hope you got something out of this. Please feel free to share any ideas or comments about this blog and what other topics you would like us to discuss.
Thank you again.