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Myths about Aging

There are a number of commonly held beliefs about aging: Older adults have poor health, lose their memories, lose interest in sex, and are no longer useful or able to help others. Research shows that these are myths that are not true for many older adults.

Myth – “Getting older means poor health.”

It's true that as you get older, your body changes. However, many things that we think are caused by aging are actually caused by lifestyle choices. Smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can cause tiredness, lack of stamina, and health problems like heart disease. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking can give you more energy, lower your risk for health problems, and may help you live longer.

Myth – “Getting older means getting senile.”

Although dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease is a serious problem for some older adults, most people never have such a serious cause of memory loss. Many other things can cause memory problems, such as some medicines, tiredness, stress, depression, and other medical conditions. If you or your friends or family worries about your memory, see your healthcare provider.

Physical activity keeps your body strong, and mental activity keeps your mind sharp and your memory strong. You can exercise your mind doing activities such as:

  • Learning to play a musical instrument or to speak a foreign language
  • Playing word games or doing crossword puzzles
  • Starting a new hobby, such as crafts, painting, or bird-watching
  • Volunteering or finding other ways to stay involved with other people
  • Reading for enjoyment and to stay informed about what is going on in the world

Other things that can help keep your mind sharp are regular physical activity, a strong social support system, and a positive attitude. A healthy heart may be the best way to protect your brain. If you control high blood pressure and cholesterol, stop smoking, and exercise regularly, it can help keep your heart and brain healthy.

Myth – “Getting older means being alone and lonely.”

There are many opportunities for you to be with other people as you get older. Things you might do include joining exercise classes, going to dances, playing cards, and being involved in community service.

You can also use the Internet to stay connected. Not only can you email your children and grandchildren, you can also research topics of interest, join social media sites such as Facebook, or make free video calls using FaceTime or Skype. If you have never used a computer, many libraries and senior centers offer free computer classes for seniors.

Myth – “Getting older means no more sex.”

Your experience of sex is likely to change as you get older, but this does not mean that sex at an older age cannot be enjoyable. Sex may be less about performance and more about close physical contact. You may know more about what brings you pleasure sexually and you may be more willing to let a partner know what pleases you.

If you have sex with a new partner, use latex or polyurethane condoms during foreplay and every time you have sex. Pregnancy may not be a concern, but you can still get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you don't practice safe sex.

When you are older, your sex life can be affected by health problems such as alcoholism, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and hormonal changes, as well as the use of some medicines. However, many treatments can help. Talk with your healthcare provider if you think that a physical problem is affecting your sex life.

Myth – “Getting older means being useless.”

One third of older people work for pay; one third work as volunteers in churches, hospitals, and other organizations; and many help take care of family, friends, and neighbors. Being retired can offer the chance to help others in ways that working adults cannot.

Getting older may offer challenges, but there are also many positive aspects. Over time, you have probably learned a lot about how to deal with challenges. You may find that you don’t feel stressed, anxious, or angry as often as when you were younger. There’s a good chance you are more comfortable with who you are. All of these things, in addition to fewer obligations, can make the later years of your life one of the best times of your life.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-29
Last reviewed: 2014-05-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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