aging myths

Tara Moore/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Aging Myths Everyone Needs to Stop Believing

Aging Myths Everyone Needs to Stop Believing

aging myths

Tara Moore/DigitalVision via Getty Images

The golden years can be the best time in a person’s life, especially for empty nesters free to travel to beautiful coastlines, reconnect with old friends and explore other options they would’ve never been able to do with kids under their roof.

However, some might think that at a certain point, the aging process begins to limit a person’s ability to lead an active life — and that simply isn’t true. To make sure loved ones feel happy and valued no matter their age, everyone should stop believing these myths about growing older.

You will inevitably get osteoporosis as you age

You will inevitably get osteoporosis as you age

Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Osteoporosis, characterized by fragile bones that are porous and have a low density, is a common condition as people age, especially women. Osteoporosis is associated with an increased risk of fractures, but to say every person will eventually experience it is incorrect.  This condition is largely preventable and can often be reduced or eliminated by following healthy lifestyle guidelines. Among those things is the need for calcium and vitamin D rich foods to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Everyone will get arthritis as they get older

Everyone will get arthritis as they get older

katleho Seisa/E+ via Getty Images

Considering people in their 20s and 30s can get arthritis, the condition is not exclusive to aging. Arthritis is the general term for inflammation of the joints, which commonly occurs in the hips, knees and spine. Wear and tear of joints and ligaments is a common side effect of growing older, but it does not mean conditions like arthritis are inevitable. Weight loss and exercise can help prevent the condition in some people, no matter their age.

Falling is something normal that happens as you get older

Falling is something normal that happens as you get older

Taiyou Nomachi/DigitalVision via Getty Images

People tend to think falling is a regular part of growing older. But actually, most falls can be prevented, and adults can do their part to reduce their risk.  A few of those things older adults can do is consistent exercising, managing medications, getting regular vision checks and making their living spaces safer.

Older people can’t adapt to change

Old people can’t adapt to change

Sally Anscombe/DigitalVision via Getty Images

The myth that older people can’t handle change has less to do with age and more to do with personal preference. Some people like certain things that others don’t, and it’s as simple as that. Someone who is 80 years old today has experienced a remarkable amount of advancements over the course of their lifetime and have had to learn to adapt to their own set of changes, even if those things weren’t how to text or turn the webcam on.

Older people can't remember that story from childhood

They don't really remember that story from their childhood

eclipse_images/E+ via Getty Images

Next time you question whether or not your grandparents are telling the right tale from their youth, think again. It’s true that short-term memory functions can noticeably decline with age, but long-term memory actually declines less as a person grows older.

Aging leads to depression

Aging leads to depression

MoMo Productions/DigitalVision via Getty Images

According to the American Psychological Association, one in four older adults experiences a mental health issue such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. But the demographic also reports less mental health problems than any other age group. Older people are generally more satisfied with their lives and confident in the choices they’ve made. They also tend to be more optimistic about growing older.

Older people need less sleep

Older people need less sleep

Koldunov/Shutterstock

It’s true that older adults don’t require as much sleep as younger adults, but the difference is minimal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people 65 years and older should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep, while younger people need to clock in seven to nine hours.

Older people should be in a home

Older people shouldn't live alone

Willie B. Thomas/DigitalVision via Getty Images

A widely believed myth is that a majority of older people should live in nursing homes or an assisted living facility. However, the data shows that in reality only about 5% of older Americans live in nursing homes at any given time.

Older people can’t learn new things

Old people can’t learn new things

Kathrin Ziegler/DigitalVision via Getty Images

A study led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto found that old brains can, in fact, learn new tricks. Researchers found that older people make up for cognitive decline by using different areas of the brain to perform the same cognitive tasks as younger people. Someone who is aging can absolutely learn a new task — like learning how to use a smartphone — they just utilize parts of the brain that are generally used for more complicated memory tasks.

Aging bodies can’t be active

Aging bodies can’t be active

supersizer/E+ via Getty Images

Many elderly people live active lifestyles, whether that’s by competing in a friendly sports match, taking up dancing, gardening, learning a new language, hiking and more. The possibilities are endless.

Older people can’t do high-intensity workouts

Older people can’t do high-intensity workouts

Yagi-Studio/E+ via Getty Images

Fitness level is incredibly dependent on a person’s lifestyle, but able-bodied older adults don’t have to be limited to low-intensity workouts. Research has shown that High-Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, is beneficial to people of any age group. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers examined the effects of HIIT on adults over the age of 65 and found that it reversed some age-related deterioration of muscle cells. HIIT can be something as simple as alternating between three minutes of fast walking or jogging and three minutes of slow walking for 30 minutes.

Seniors don't have sex

Seniors don't have sex

The Good Brigade/DigitalVision via Getty Images

The topic of seniors having sex is taboo, and many people presume they just stop altogether. This stereotype can cause older generations to feel shame about sexual feelings and the desire for intimacy. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 57% of the participants who were above 60 years of age were sexually active. The study also showed significant presence of sexual desire, activity and function in people 50 and over. 

Forgetfulness means an elderly person has Alzheimer’s

Forgetfulness means an edlerly person has Alzheimer’s

MoMo Productions/DigitalVision via Getty Images

It's important to remember that memory loss in older adults doesn't automatically mean they have Alzheimer’s disease. Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, and as people get older, their brain changes as well as their bodies. Older people may notice that it takes longer for them to learn new things or they don't remember information as well as they used to, or they lose things quite often. According to the National Institute on Aging, generally speaking, these are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems like Alzheimer's disease. There are actually many factors for why someone could be experiencing cognitive problems, including stress, depression and vitamin deficiencies.

A person can’t reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease

A person can’t reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision via Getty Image

Contrary to myths about Alzheimer’s, adults can actively reduce their risks of developing the disease. According to the American Psychological Association, physical and mental inactivity, smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression are all associated risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Older adults who keep their minds and bodies active can help offset cognitive decline while also maintaining their overall health.

Retirees don't seek out adventure

Retirees don't seek out adventure

Geber86/E+ via Getty Images

When it comes time to retire, elderly people don’t just sit around all day with nothing to do (though there’s nothing wrong with a lazy day). Some people wait all their lives to travel the globe, while others catch a thrill by getting creative in the kitchen, redecorating their home, learning a new craft or trying their hand at volunteer work.

How a person ages depend on their genes

How a person ages depend on their genes

10'000 Hours/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Even though genes do play a role in how a person might look or what conditions they may be predisposed to, there is an environmental factor as well when it comes to healthy aging and longevity. According to research published in the journal Immunity and Ageing, “family studies demonstrated that about 25 percent of the variation in human longevity is due to genetic factors.” A person’s genes can be changed by what they eat, how active they are, their exposure to chemicals and their environment.

Older people are crabby

Old people are crabby

Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Some people assume that the older you get, the crabbier you are — and that is ageist. In fact, experts say senior generations are happier than the general population. Today, studies validate the “positivity effect,” which maintains that older people tend to associate themselves with positive stimuli, rather than negative ones.

Everyone from an older generation acts the same

Everyone from an older generation acts the same

AleksandarNakic/E+ via Getty Images

“All old people are the same” is a stereotype. Like young people, some are sad and some are happy. Some are healthy, while others are sick. Some like golfing, swimming and traveling. Do you know someone who volunteers or still works? Someone who uses a wheelchair and another able-bodied? Elderly people are as diverse as any other folks on Earth, and assuming that they’re all the same is simply untrue.

The elderly don't need social outlets

The elderly don't need social outlets

MoMo Productions/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Although loneliness is a concern for people of all ages, 34% of adults aged 50 through 80 say they lack companionship and 27% feel socially isolated. This can impact memory, mental health and life expectancy, and some research even shows it’s as bad for our health as obesity and smoking.

Older people are lonely

Elderly people are lonely

Lucy Lambriex/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Not only do the elderly need social outlets, but they also take advantage of them. More than 70% of senior respondents to the National Poll on Healthy Aging reported having frequent social contact with family, friends or neighbors.

People become less productive as they age

People become less productive as they age

RgStudio/E+ via Getty Images

Even as they age, seniors find ways to exercise their minds and partake in an active, on-the-go lifestyle. While some elderly people may need more rest, many older folks find the time to volunteer on a consistent basis. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 24% of senior citizens volunteer throughout their retirement years.

All cataracts are age-related

All cataracts are age-related

ER Productions Limited/DigitalVision via Getty Images

A cataract is a cloudy area covering the lens of the eye and is incredibly common as folks age. The good news is that cataract surgery is safe and easily corrects vision problems caused by the issue. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean all cataracts happen with age — some can occur after an eye injury or after surgery for a condition like glaucoma. 

Old beliefs are outdated beliefs

Old beliefs are outdated beliefs

10'000 Hours/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Every person has their own thoughts, beliefs, political opinions and worldviews. It’s unfair to assume that just because someone is older that they have outdated views of the world and the people in it.

Dementia is a normal part of aging

Dementia is a normal part of aging

kate_sept2004/E+ via Getty Images

Not everyone gets dementia — though it is true that the risk of developing dementia increases with age, and one in three seniors will die with the disease. While dementia is fairly common, it is not a universal aspect of aging. In those who do develop dementia, Alzheimer's is the most common form, affecting approximately 70% of dementia patients. Here are some healthy brain foods everyone should be eating.

More from The Active Times:

10 Important Relationships to Cultivate in Your Lifetime

20 Jobs for Retirees Returning to the Workforce

National Parks: Take a Tour of Their Past Through Vintage Photos

Everything You Need to Know About Working Out Over 50

Hidden Sources of Bacteria in Your Home