Getting older can be unsettling. Our lives change, our bodies evolve, and we’re constantly faced with something new. We may even see those around us struggling with the process and fear the difficulties we ourselves will eventually face.
We often fear aging because it brings us closer to the end of life as we know it. We may fear change, or loss, or difficulty in life. We have created myths about aging that reinforce our fears and often come to view the entirely natural process in a negative light.
Luckily, many common myths about aging are easily debunked. Although it’s true that our bodies break down with time, many of our fears are directly affected by our own perspective and lifestyle choices. Here are 5 common myths that we need to stop perpetuating.
1. Older Adults Lose the Ability to Learn New Things
You may have heard the adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but is there actually truth to that statement?
In most circumstances, our brains are capable of learning throughout our entire lives. In fact, brain exercises alongside healthy lifestyle choices encourage cognitive health and are highly recommended to keep minds active.
Our minds also utilize different types of memory. Episodic memory is in charge of the unique proceedings of each day and does often worsen with age, which is why we misplace things or can’t remember someone’s name.
Our semantic memory deals with concepts and general facts. It helps us remember how to do things like speak and tell time, and it usually remains strong even in old age.
2. Depression and Isolation Are Normal
An inevitable downside to living a long life is having to part with much of what we previously defined our lives by. These may include:
- And physical capabilities
Losses such as these can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and ultimately to serious depression.
While we can’t control life itself, we can control both our perspective and how we spend much of our time. Not buying into myths about old age and appreciating what we have can make a huge difference in our spirits. Volunteering and joining groups are great ways to meet people and remain social, and elderly living facilities are often great places for seniors wishing to be around peers and to regularly partake in activities.
3. Your Genes Determine Your Health
The health problems of our parents can be excellent indicators of what we ourselves may have to face. However, the common belief that we are fated to the same issues because of our genes is a myth.
Diseases are caused by gene mutations which can either be acquired through the environment or passed down from our parents. These mutations put us at a greater risk of the related diseases, but are not yet a diagnosis.
Lifestyle choices often play as much of a role in mutations forming or expressing themselves as the genes themselves. Mutations such as skin cancer are acquired from our environment and can be avoided by limiting sun exposure and wearing hats and sunscreen while outdoors. Hereditary mutations are not similarly avoidable, but complications can often be prevented or managed through diet and exercise. Genetic testing and consultations can also lend us the information we need to make smart lifestyle choices.
4. Weakness and Pain Are Inevitable
A prevalent myth about aging is that we become weak and are constantly in pain. As with most other concerns, though, much of this depends on how we live our lives.
Weakness and pain are not entirely avoidable, but they’re also not directly connected to aging. While the wear and strain that we put on our bodies correlates to the pain we feel later on, proper diet and exercise can help keep our bodies limber and functioning properly.
In fact, one study reported a higher percentage of chronic pain in participants aged 45-64 than those 65+.
5. Seniors Have No Interest in Sex or Intimacy
Sex and intimacy play significant roles in our lives. They’re also some of the main things people are scared of losing as they age, and that’s exactly why this myth rounds off our list. Yes, the aging of our bodies can make sex more difficult with old age, but there are many ways in which we can help accommodate this form of intimacy. From something as simple as accepting our bodies and our experience to physical exercises and aids such as pills, patches, and lube, sex can generally remain an enjoyable part of life at any age.
We are not doctors and this article should not be taken as medical advice.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.