Being a senior comes with some limitations that make day-to-day life more complicated and less enjoyable. But what if we told you that some of those limitations are just not necessary? It’s true, there is a great number of medical myths about seniors’ physical and mental health that many of us take at face value, but we shouldn’t.
Many people make assumptions about aging, what it is like to grow “old”, and how older age will affect them. But as we are getting older, it is important to understand the positive aspects of aging.
Read on to learn about 10 common misconceptions related to aging and older adults:
1. The older I get, the less sleep I need.
Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to our energy levels, overall wellbeing, and even long-term health, but many older adults aren’t sure just how much shut-eye they need every night. There is a great deal of confusion surrounding this issue, as there are many stereotypes involved. On one hand, some people say that seniors need more sleep because they tend to take a midday nap, but on the other hand, others believe that seniors need less sleep because they tend to wake up so early in the morning. Both of these statements are stereotypes, and the reasons why both of these tendencies are observed in older adults vary. Poor pain management, underlying health issues, and even medications can all affect your sleep. Therefore, not all seniors need to nap during the day or sleep more or less every night, but if your sleep is disrupted by your health issues or any other factor in your life, you’ll need to catch up during the day.
2. Older people will inevitably get Dementia.
A gradual decline in cognition and other mental faculties are often associated with senior age, but this, too, is but a common misconception. The vast majority of seniors on the planet retain their cognitive abilities. Dementia is by no means a healthy part of aging, and many people in their 90s and beyond live without exhibiting symptoms of this condition.
3. The way you age mainly depends on your genes
Should you “thank” your mom and dad for aging more rapidly than your peers? Medical professionals say “not necessarily”, as we tend to give too much credit to the ability of our genes to affect our wellbeing, health, and even our lifespan. So, even if you think that you have poor genetics, don’t treat it as a sentence, especially since scientists now know that our habits and lifestyle can turn certain genes on and off. The WHO stated, for example, that our lifestyle choices predict over 60% of our health, quality of life, and longevity. Therefore, eating and sleeping well, getting plenty of exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol all play a much bigger role in your well-being and longevity than your genes.
4. Older adults should take it easy and avoid exercise so they don’t get injured.
There’s a persistent misconception that muscle and strength building is dangerous or simply ineffective for older adults. Fear of injuries, the need for individual exercise adjustments, and pain often accompanied by chronic conditions all make many seniors believe that exercise will cause them more harm than good, but most doctors and researchers completely disagree with that statement. Even if going to the gym, doing yoga, or running isn’t for you for whatever reason, they claim that you can participate and benefit from some type of physical activity. Exercise and physical activity are not only great for your mental and physical health but can help keep you independent as you age.
5. I’m “too old” to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is difficult at any age, but even more so when you’ve been stuck with the habit for years. But don’t let your brain come up with the excuse that the damage is already done and it’s too late for you to quit. “No matter how long you have smoked for and no matter how many cigarettes you smoke a day, your health will start to improve as soon as you quit. Some health benefits are immediate, some are longer-term, but what matters is that it’s never too late.”
6. Vision and tooth loss is a given
Is your vision going to decline with age? Most people would say “yes”, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to. You see, the reason why many adults feel like their vision is declining is due to an underlying health condition. Now, what we do know is that the acuity of your vision can change over time. So the sharpness of your vision, but that is not the same as losing your eyesight. Therefore, vision loss is hardly a given “symptom” of old age, and neither is the loss of teeth. If you keep up your dental health and hygiene and undergo regular checkups and dental cleaning, there is no reason for you to lose any teeth.
7. Older adults can’t learn new things.
While it may be true that learning new information may not be as easy when we’re not kids anymore, there’s a silver lining. The thing is that older adults learn things once and for all, whereas kids may forget new information much sooner than adults, according to neurological research. Therefore, learning new skills and information about the world and challenging your brain is always good, no matter your age. Engaging in learning activities and teaching yourself to do new skills may even improve your overall cognitive abilities in the long term.
8. Depression and loneliness are normal in older adults.
As people age, some may find themselves feeling isolated and alone. This can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness. However, these feelings are not a normal part of aging as growing older can have many emotional benefits, such as long-lasting relationships with friends and family and a lifetime of memories to share with loved ones. Studies show that older adults are less likely to experience depression than young adults. So, when should you be concerned? It’s important to remember that older adults with depression may have less obvious symptoms or be less likely to discuss their feelings. Depression is a common and potentially serious mood disorder, but some treatments are effective for most people.
9. Weight gain is unavoidable because your metabolism slows down.
This misconception stems from a common confusion of two terms – digestion and metabolism. Your metabolism has very little to do with weight gain in most cases, and the real culprit behind those extra pounds is a less active lifestyle according to doctors. The solution is pretty apparent – simply move around more whenever possible and don’t neglect exercise.
10. Only women need to worry about Osteoporosis.
Although osteoporosis is more common in women, this disease still affects many men and could be underdiagnosed. While men may not be as likely to have osteoporosis because they start with more bone density than women, one in five men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. By age 65 or 70, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate.
Many of the things that put men at risk are the same as those for women, including family history, not enough calcium or vitamin D, and too little exercise. Low levels of testosterone, too much alcohol, taking certain drugs, and smoking are other risk factors.
If you are experiencing hip pain, chronic or acute knee pain, limited movement, or other knee and joint problems there are medical treatments that can help.
Call me, Douglas J. Roger, M.D, at 1-760-416-4511. I practice with the Institute of Clinical Orthopedics and Neuroscience in the Desert Regional Medical Center the office is located at 1180 N Indian Canyon Drive W201, Palm Springs, CA 92262.
I look forward to providing you with the prompt, high-quality care you need when you need it!