There are lots of misconceptions about aging and what it is actually like to be a senior adult. Older people are often portrayed negatively in pop culture.
However, today’s seniors are a different bunch than past generations. They’re more educated, more tech-savvy, and more adventurous.
Many stereotypes persist even though they are completely wrong. It may seem harmless, but these negative perceptions can change the way seniors think about themselves. When these stereotypes are internalized, they can become a self-fulling prophecy.
That’s why it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Misinformation can discourage seniors and keep them from enjoying their golden years.
Misconception #1: Seniors Need Less Sleep as They Age
Many senior adults find that they naturally wake up earlier or struggle with insomnia.
Fact: Adults of all ages need around seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
When older adults get less sleep, they increase their chances of falls and trouble with memory. A lack of sleep can also increase the risk of mood or mental health disorders, including irritability and depression.
Misconception #2: Seniors Can’t Learn New Skills
The old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is just plain wrong.
Fact: Most cognitive changes related to healthy aging are mild and do not affect the ability to acquire new skills.
While it may take a little longer for seniors to learn a new skill, many seniors outperform younger people on intelligence tests that draw upon accumulated wisdom and knowledge. One study found that learning new skills in an encouraging environment expands cognitive abilities in seniors just as it does for children.
Many seniors use retirement to learn a new language, explore a hobby, or take up a new sport.
Of course, some seniors do experience significant cognitive changes, but most of the time these changes are related to Alzheimer’s or dementia, not age alone.
Misconception #3: Seniors Are Bad Drivers
The driving abilities of seniors are often called into question. While seniors may choose to change their driving habits as the years pass, their ability to drive safely has little to do with the calendar and more to do with health and personal circumstances.
Fact: On average, older drivers have fewer actual crashes per year than do younger drivers.
As seniors age, their reflexes may be less sharp. They may also experience hearing or vision loss that can impact their ability to perceive potential danger on the road.
There’s no need for older adults to stop driving the day they turn 70. Instead, seniors should maintain an open line of communication with their medical team. It’s important to discuss how health changes may impact driving at any age.
Myth #4: Exercise Isn’t Safe for Older Adults
While it’s true that muscle tone and strength usually decline naturally over time, it’s no reason to throw in the towel on exercise.
Fact: The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity.
According to the CDC, regular physical activity is incredibly beneficial to people of all ages and stages of life.
Focusing on endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility can help seniors retain their physical function.
Misconception #5: Most Seniors are Placed in a Nursing Home
According to the National Institutes of Health, less than 5% of older Americans live in skilled nursing communities.
Years ago, aging adults moved to communities that provided skilled nursing support when a health crisis forced the issue.
Fact: Today, many seniors choose to move into senior living communities for convenience, amenities, social engagement, delicious dining and opportunities for care when needed.
The operative word here is choose. The vast majority of seniors today determine where and how they want to live.
Many older adults are making a move to senior living communities to take advantage of the services and maintenance-free lifestyle. No need to put off that resort vacation when it can become your new home!
A Positive Outlook on Aging Pays Off
When it comes to aging, attitude is everything. Research from Georgia State University shows that attitudes toward aging are highly predictive of aging outcomes.
In other words, those who leave behind common misconceptions and have positive attitudes about aging live longer, have better memory function and recover more easily from illnesses.
So, put the myths and misconceptions behind you and find out for yourself how much fun and relaxation senior living really has to offer!