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By Courage Homecare on May 06, 2024

Aging is a Superpower: Debunking 3 Common Myths

Superpowers that come with aging

What are some of the myths or stereotypes about aging? A few that may come to mind are:  you physically and mentally start to decline, older people are grouchier or more closed-minded (“can’t teach an old dog new tricks”!), or maybe older people live in the past. Turns out these are all wrong! These truly are “myths.” Research has shown time and time again that aging is a process of growth and expansion–if your mind and heart are open to it–and getting older doesn’t mean it’s over.  Often, getting older can mean new possibilities and new beginnings. So let’s debunk these aging myths. 

Myth #1 Age means decline

The truth is that if we believe we are declining, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we start to think we are frail, or that our physical ability is worsening, our brains will often make it so. That is because we will begin to make decisions that limit our activity or our learning, which can have greater impacts than you might think. For example, we may think, “now that I am older I shouldn’t exercise as much.”  As a result, you may decrease your level of exercise, which then has the impact of decreasing your muscle strength, flexibility, and balance, which will have the ultimate effect of actually making exercise more difficult or dangerous for you!  

 

In a similar scenario, you might say to yourself, “now that I am older, what’s the point in investing in new hobbies or skills.” But this lack of investment in yourself and your mental growth is what will limit you, not your aging.  Our brain's plasticity - the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth - means that we can learn and adapt throughout our entire lives, regardless of age. 

 

If we continue to train our minds and bodies, they will continue to grow stronger and sharper. We see this in the lifestyles of the people who live in areas called “The Blue Zones.” You can read more about “Unlocking the Secrets of Aging Well: Key Takeaways from the Blue Zones” in our previous blog. Blue zones are places where people regularly live to be over a hundred years old, and it’s partly because they continue the same activities throughout their lives, they socialize and they enjoy their hobbies like they did when they were younger, and because they take on new hobbies and skills like volunteer work, or caring for younger family members. 

 

Interestingly, Yale University psychologist Becca Levy discovered that people subjected to negative stereotypes around aging in their twenties, thirties, and forties exhibited a thirty percent greater decline in memory by their sixties, compared to people not subjected to negative stereotypes and messaging. This is important for us all to take note of. It’s not only about thinking positively about aging ourselves but also about how we talk to and treat others in our lives who are aging. 

 

If you are older and feeling like you’re slowing down, remember that doesn’t mean you have to stop completely or that things are “over.”  Remind yourself that you are capable (and much wiser!) and can do lots of things!  Pick back up on a favorite hobby or take a class on a new interest. Plan lunch with old friends or join a new social group. If you need ideas for getting active again here are some “Exercises for older Adults”.

 

The most important ingredient for “training” yourself out of believing these aging myths is changing how you talk to yourself. Speak belief and power to yourself and tell yourself what you need to hear: I am capable, I am confident, I can learn new things, and I can make new friends 

Resources on research:

Myth #2 Growing older makes you grouchier and more closed-minded

Turns out it’s quite the opposite. As we get older we unlock connections that our brain doesn’t get access to until we enter our 60’s. Three functions of the brain unlock in our golden years:

 

  • We get better at blending different viewpoints- Instead of seeing things in black and white, we appreciate the shades of gray and the beauty of diverse opinions.
  • We can have opposing viewpoints without bias- We understand both sides of the story and cultivate empathy along the way.
  • Seeing the Bigger Picture- Our mind can see the grand scheme of things. We learn to see beyond the details and think creatively to uncover new possibilities.

 

One stereotype seems true after all this research: we do get wiser as we get older. 

 

At Courage Homecare, we work with this research in mind. Every person we work with is someone who we are supporting in maintaining a high quality of life. 

 

Myth #3 Older people live in the past

 

Sometimes younger people feel frustrated by older people for “living in the past.” But reminiscing about and learning from past events is part of what threads a society's past and present together. It is part of how wisdom is transferred between the generations, and also how many of us access meaningful moments in our lives. Some interesting (though dated) research has suggested that older individuals who live active lives in the present reminisce less, in large part because they have more going on in their present day. This is an interesting finding that also speaks to the importance of staying active and engaged, no matter your age. Your past is important, but new experiences don’t erase past ones. You can cherish past moments and experiences, and create new ones too. 

 

At Courage Homecare, our goal is to help our clients, no matter their age or abilities, to live their best lives. We love going down memory lane and supporting clients in finding new passions and pursuing new experiences. We do not believe that getting older is the end. It is a new beginning. Every day brings new possibilities. We’d love to connect if you’re looking for home support. 

Schedule a Free Care Consultation today: Click here

Published by Courage Homecare May 6, 2024
Courage Homecare