Let's Go Dispel Some Aging Myths
nothing could better destroy the deeply ingrained societal bias that older
people are a frail, powerless, sexless, burdensome lot, than the following
headline which came across the wires.
Top Senior Athletes Redefine Aging at The 1999 National Senior Games -
The Senior Olympics Gold Rush Begins...
story went on to say that with a record number of entrants, the 1999 National
Senior Games constitute the largest athletic
competition in the world.
Registered athletes range from baby boomers to World War II veterans. Twenty
five percent of the participants were in their 50s; 43 percent were in
their 60s; 26 percent were in their 70s; and .4 percent are in their 90s.
All 50 states were represented, with Florida sending the largest number
of registrants (730). Maryland, Texas and California sent delegations of
599, 576 and 562 athletes, respectively.
event is entirely in keeping with the surprising results of the most comprehensive
scientific study on aging in America conducted by the John D. and Catherine
T. MacArthur Found- ation and reported upon extensively by John W. Rowe,
M.D. and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D in their book Successful Aging. (Click Here to Purchase...)
Rowe and Kahn cite six prevalent myths which they characterize as follows:
Myth #1 To Be Old is to Be Sick
Myth #2 You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.
Myth #3 The Horse is Out of the Barn.
Myth #4 The Secret to Successful Aging is to Choose
Your Parents Wisely.
Myth #5 The Lights May Be on, But the Voltage is
Myth #6 The Elderly Don't Pull Their Own Weight.
a society we are obsessed with the negative rather than the positive aspects
of aging. Truth lies in accepting that scientific evidence clearly
points away from these stereotypes. America must quickly get a grip
the new reality in view of the hoards of over 60 baby boomers shortly to
descend upon it. As author Theodore Rozak puts it, "The future belongs to maturity."
is a synopsis of the evidence from the MacArthur Foundation Study contravening
each of the Myths:
Be Old is to be Sick.
it's findings, the study establishes that older people are much more likely
to age well than to become decrepit and dependent. In fact, relatively
few elderly people live in nursing homes, 5.2% which is down from 6.3%
in 1982. Of those age 65 to 74, fully 89% report no disability whatsoever.
study concludes that Older Americans are generally healthy. Even
in advanced old age, an overwhelming majority of the elderly population
have little functional disability, and the proportion that is disabled
is being whittled away over time. Much of this is due to a huge reduction
in acute infectious illnesses in the twentieth century, and more recent
decline in precursors to chronic disease such as high blood pressure, high
cholersterol levels and smoking.
Can't Teach and Old Dog New Tricks.
shows that older people can, and do, learn new things. Three key
factors predict strong mental function in old age: (1) regular physical
activity; (2) a strong social support system; (3) belief in one's ability
to handle what life has to offer.
we know, older people regularly learn to use appliances and equipment that
were unknown in their youth - food processors, microwave ovens, ATMs, even
mastering the mysteries of VCR programming. And now, seniors are
embracing computers in unprecedented numbers, discussed in greater detail
in the Using the Web materials found on this
site. Among other things, it was discovered that elderly people who
have experienced some cognitive decline can, with appropriate training,
improve sufficiently to overcome approximately twenty years of memory loss.
Horse is Out of the Barn.
is a stereotypical assumption that, if you're older, its too late
to reverse lifelong risky lifestyles and habits such as smoking, drinking,
fatty foods and lack of exercise. The damage has already been done
and poor habits are per- manently ingrained. Debilities related to
decades of smoking, excessive alcohol use, eating fatty foods and lack
of exercise are often simply chalked up to age.
truth is that nature is remarkably forgiving. There is certainly
no known potion for youthful rejuvenation. But scientific research
establishes that the greatest anti-aging "potion" is good old fashioned
you're a smoker, it is now well established that the risk of heart disease
and stroke in smokers reduces almost as soon as you quit smoking no matter
how long you've smoked. Studies of older people show that threat
of high blood pressure can be reduced by changes in diet and exercise and
the the horse can be coaxed back into the barn by physical activity, mental
stimulation, changing habits, and continuing emotional support.
Secret to Successful Aging is to Choose Your Parents Wisely.
to widespread beliefs, the MacArthur Foundation Study discovered that only
about 30% of physical aging can be blamed on one's genes. Heredity
is simply not as powerful influence on aging as is generally assumed.
This conclusion was teased out of a major study of both identical and nonidentical
twins in Sweden.
it's shown that, as we age, genetic inheritance becomes less of a factor
and environment and lifestyle become more important. How we
live and where we live have the most profound impact on organ function,
including heart, immune system, lung, bones, brain and kidneys.
behaviors as not smoking, good diet, exercise and engagement with life
are not inherited. In short, we are responsible in large part for
our own old age. We can enhance our mental and physical ability as
we grow older.
Lights May Be On, But the Voltage Is Low."
Again, a stereotype pervades
that older men and women suffer from inadequate physical and mental abilities.
This assumption finds its most pronounced expression in the general belief
that sexual interest and activity in later life is rare and downright inappropriate.
Yes, there is decrease in
sexual activity as we age. However, there are tremendous individual
differences which, in reality, are determined by cultural norms, health
and availability of sexual or romantic partners. Chronological age
is not the most critical factor.
The recent feverish demand
for Viagra should dispel the notion that sexual decline is rampant among
older people. Indeed, the 1953 Kinsey Report found that 70 percent
of men age 68 were sexually active. And that was in a more prudish
and less healthy era.
"The Elderly Don't Pull
Their own Weight."
In measuring success, our
society simply doesn't count unpaid work. The assumption is that
everyone who works for pay is pulling their own weight. Those who
do not are a burden. Unpaid productive activity is not part
of the equation for measuring contribution to society.
Yet, in a larger sense, most
older people are productive. One third work for pay, another third
as volunteers in churches, hospitals or charities and another as providing
informal aid to family members, friends and neighbors.
One obstacle is that older
people are not given an equal chance for paid employment. In corporate
downsizings and mergers, the first to go are the older workers, even though
it is now illegal to force retirement. In job seeking, older workers
are viewed as posing liabilities.
Today, millions of older
people are ready, willing and able to work. Employers who have stressed
retention and recruitment of older employees find that they meet or exceed
expectations, and bring valuable insight and experience to the table.
Decades of research clearly
debunk the myth that to be old in America is to be sick and frail. Older
Americans are generally healthy. Even in advanced old age, an overwhelming
majority of the elderly population have little functional disability, and
the proportion that is disabled is being whittled away over time. There
is increasing momentum toward the emergence of a physically and cognitively
fit, nondisabled, active elderly population. The combination of longer
life and less illness is adding life to years as well as years to life.
Late Breaking Senior News
Seniors Aging Well, Wisely and Successfully
Copyright © 1999-2007 [Go60.Com]