Is it Possible to Feel Young, Even as You Age?
Stereotypes about aging abound in today’s world. This may stem from a youth-obsessed culture that tends to stigmatize the aging process. Whatever its cause, when people buy in to aging’s stereotypes, they actually risk their own health and well-being.
So we thought it would be a good idea to dispel some of the myths about growing older. Here are just a few.
Myth 1: There’s nothing you can do to mitigate the effects of aging
We’ve discussed several ways you can create a healthful future and retain your independence before. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and beginning an exercise routine can have amazing positive benefits, even later in life. British researchers conducted a study of seniors’ activity level over the course of eight years. They discovered that those who were active and the start of the study and remained so throughout the eight years had the lowest incidences of chronic diseases, memory loss and physical disability. Those who were sedentary at the start of the study and who started an exercise program and sustained it throughout the study did nearly as well, achieving a sevenfold decrease in their risk of becoming ill or frail compared to those who remained inactive throughout the length of the study.
Myth 2: Getting older means declining health and vitality
The idea that old age means numerous health challenges and that there’s nothing that can be done to stop the onslaught of diminished vitality is perhaps one of the most damaging myths that exists. Buying into this stereotype can, by itself, create ill health. A study from Yale University showed that negative beliefs about aging may be linked to brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease – specifically, people who had more negative thoughts about aging had a significantly greater number of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two conditions associated with Alzheimer’s. Another study from Yale demonstrated that positive attitudes about aging could extend one’s life by 7-1/2 years!
Myth 3: Memory loss is inevitable as we age
It is true that Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other conditions that cause memory loss and cognitive impairment are more common as we grow older. Many will experience certain age-related memory changes. Yet most older adults complete their lives fully cognitively intact. Research suggests that older brains are better at certain tasks that involve discernment and judgment—the qualities more commonly referred to as “wisdom.” Additionally, there are things we can do to help prevent memory loss as we age – challenge our minds by learning new tasks, exercise, eat well, socialize with friends, and reduce stress. One effective way of reducing stress is meditation, which has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Myth 4: Older adults are less happy than their younger counterparts
It’s interesting that this myth persists, given that numerous studies have been conducted showing the opposite to be true. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that the older the person, the happier they were. A Gallup poll discovered that older people experienced less stress and worry than younger people. Of course, happiness is a complex issue. Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center for Longevity, discusses the nuances in her TED talk, “Older people are happier.” But suffice it to say, the idea of seniors being grouchy and unhappy is simply untrue.
Myth 5: It’s too late to [fill in the blank]
Many people feel that if you haven’t been physically active all your life, starting at an advanced age will do no good. But as discussed in Myth 1 above, even when begun later in life, exercise can decrease one’s risk of becoming ill or frail. Too late to achieve great things? Mann Kaur became the world’s fastest centenarian by clinching gold in the 100-meter race at the 2017 World Masters Games in Aukland, New Zealand. Too late for romance? A British study in 2012 found that the number of grooms older than 65 increased by 25 percent over the previous year; for brides, it was a 21 percent increase. In America, the number of people over the age of 50 living together in a romantic relationship doubled from 2000 to 2010. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as the old saying goes – if there’s something you really want in life, age should never be a barrier. For more inspiration of how to achieve what you want as you age, visit the Growing Bolder website.