Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
Aging is an inevitable process that all of us will have to face irrespective of how we feel about it. Certain personal unpleasant experiences with elders and what we hear and watch in movies have made most of us believe that old age is all about forgetting doctor appointments and being cranky and grumpy all the time. But the truth is, these assumptions are nothing but myths of aging. So, here, in this article, let us debunk aging myths and see what the real facts about aging are so that you don’t fear getting old.
Myth 1: Depression in old age is normal
Fact: Growing older involves a lot of life changes. You’ll go through retirement, you may lose your loved ones to death or you would suffer from some chronic illness. These changes can bring about sadness and make you feel unhappy. But, that does not mean depression in old age is normal. Depression is a medical condition. It interferes with the normal functioning of the body. In old age, it might be difficult to express how you feel and others may incorrectly assume that this sadness is normal when it’s actually not. Therefore, talking and expressing your feelings is important in old age. It’s never too late to get help. Besides, you can avoid feeling lonely by staying connected with your family and friends. You can join book clubs or prayer meets to keep yourself engaged with people.
Myth 2: The older you get, the less sleep you need
Fact: You need the same amount of sleep in old age as you do in adulthood – 7 to 8 hours. You may suffer from sleep problems in old age but that could be because of unhealthy sleeping habits like irregular wake and bedtime, having tea or coffee before bedtime, or napping during the day. Certain diseases could also become the cause of disturbed sleeping. Smoking and alcohol intake are also to blame. Eliminating these unhealthy lifestyle choices and improving your bedtime routine can certainly help in improving your sleep quality. With improved sleep quality, you’ll not only improve your mood but you’ll also end up improving your mental and physical health.
[Understand the reason for your sleepless nights with sleep tests]
Myth 3: Older people can’t learn new things
Fact: One popular saying is ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. But contrary to this, our brain continues to develop through and beyond middle age. It means that even in old age you can always learn new things. You can learn to play an instrument or you can learn a new language or you can take a class on a subject that you have never studied before. In fact, it has been proven by researchers that unlike children and young adults, older people actually benefit when they challenge their lifelong beliefs and assumptions and by viewing life from a different perspective.
Myth 4: Memory loss is unavoidable in old age
Fact: Experiencing fleeting memory problems as you age is normal. It only reflects healthy changes in the brain and its functions. This change may feel frustrating but is nothing to worry about. As a matter of fact, day-to-day stress can also make you forget little things like your doctor’s appointment or where you left your keys. However, significant memory loss in old age could be a serious concern and in that case, you should consult with a doctor. It could have a range of different causes. Hence, only a doctor can better identify it and help you plan the best course of action.
Myth 5: Elders shouldn’t exercise because of the risk of injury
Fact: You may think that exercising in old age, especially when you have a chronic condition would increase the risk of an injury. However, anyone of any age can do some sort of physical activity in most chronic conditions. In most cases, instead of physical activity, physical inactivity becomes the cause of becoming dependent on others. But, if you choose to stay engaged in some sort of exercise as you age, you’ll not only stay active and independent, but you’ll also be able to better manage your chronic illnesses.
Myth 6: Arthritis is inevitable in old age
Fact: Time does take a toll on joints. But, it’s not necessary that you’ll suffer from arthritis in old age. Age-related wear and tear of the joints, obesity, genetics, and previous joint injuries may be a bigger risk than arthritis is. Although, these conditions can be prevented with regular exercise. Consistent moderate physical activity helps strengthen the muscles around the joints and prevents cartilage damage. Exercise also helps in losing weight which may put extra pressure on your joints.
[You think arthritis is the cause for your achy joints? Get tested to confirm]
Myth 7: Old age kills libido
Fact: Unless you have been diagnosed with a condition where vigorous cardiovascular activity is a risk factor, you can enjoy sex at any age. Yes, some physical and emotional issues may affect your experience, but most of the problems can be addressed and solved. For instance, vaginal dryness can be easily tackled with over-the-counter lubricants and prescription vaginal estrogen therapy. Moreover, many treatments are available for erectile dysfunction and low testosterone in men as well.
There’s a reason that old age is called the golden age. Don’t let such aging myths spoil your experience of entering old age. Understand your body and take control of how you are going to spend your golden years.
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