10 Myths of Aging


Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Her Retirement Podcast. This week I’m talking about an article I saw on the National Institute on Aging website. It is called 10 Myths About Aging. And what happens many times, people make assumptions about aging, sometimes younger people and sometimes older people, and these assumptions are based on what we think it’s like to grow old and how older age affects people. But as we are getting older, it’s essential to not just think about the negative aspects of aging and how we overcome those, but I think we should think about the positive aspects of aging and look at those things as opportunities because, as we get older, there are so many opportunities. Research has shown that you can help preserve your health and mobility as you age by adopting or continuing your healthy habits and lifestyle choices.


And this is something I think about all the time. I focus on that and make it not just something I have to do but something I have the privilege of doing. And when I think about my health and lifestyle choices as things I’m able to do versus things I have to do, it just puts a whole different spin on it and gives me a whole new different attitude about it. I say, “Gosh, I am so thankful I get to work out today.” I get to move my body, exercise my mind, and so on. So, let’s talk about some of these myths that are out there in our population about aging.


Okay, so let’s talk about myth number one, depression and loneliness is normal in older adults. While studies show that older adults are less likely to experience depression as they age, some people feel alone and isolated, which can lead to anxiety, sadness, or depression.


However, these feelings are not a normal part of aging. As growing older can have many emotional benefits. So, it’s not just this, oh my goodness, you get older, and you get depressed, sad, and lonely. Many older people have an opportunity to establish or continue long-lasting relationships with friends and families, and they have this lifetime of memories to share with loved ones. So, when should those feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness if you have them become a concern? Well, it’s important to remember that older adults with depression might have less obvious symptoms and might be less likely to talk about their feelings. It could be related to some mood disorders, but some treatments are effective for those feeling that way. And I also think when you don’t have a retirement plan, and you haven’t thought about what you’re going to do in retirement, and then all of a sudden wham, you’re depressed, and you’re like, what do I do with all this time?


I went through something similar, although it wasn’t retirement. My children left the nest, my last two, and I had this empty nest. And I thought about it, and I thought I had prepared for it, but I still felt sad and a little depressed and lonely for all the activities they brought into my life. And as much as you try to prepare, you can’t always qualify. But in terms of retirement, the more you can do without thinking about how you spend your time, the people you’re going to spend the time with and your activities, your purpose, that part of it is so important. It’s the non-financial part of retirement, and it’s something that we have experts whom we can connect you with to help you through that so you don’t experience those periods of depression and loneliness. But in and of itself, it is not 100% associated with growing older.


Myth number two, the older I get, the less sleep I need. As people age, they may find themselves having a more challenging time falling asleep, maybe staying asleep. But a common misconception is that a person’s sleep needs decline with age. But the fact is that older adults need the same amount of sleep that we all need at any age, seven to nine hours each night. Of course, sleep helps you stay healthy and vivacious, and alert. Adequate sleep can also help reduce the risks of getting injured, improving your overall well-being and, of course, many other health benefits to good sleep habits. And I know one of the other myths of retirement, and maybe this isn’t such a myth, but the afternoon nap or siesta; I’ve been taking those for years because working for myself, my time is my time. And if I want to take a good little afternoon snooze so I can work later at night, then I do that.


So, sleep is essential to your mental health. And, of course, in retirement, you can take siestas, right? Because you don’t have a boss or work demanding your time at two o’clock in the afternoon. So, sleep away; it’s perfect for you.


Number three, older adults have a hard time learning new things. Wow, that’s a big one. That is so not true. Older adults can learn new things, create new things, use their brains, and improve their performance in many areas. While aging often comes with changes in thinking, many cognitive changes are undoubtedly positive, such as having more insight, knowledge, and skills that you can tap from those life experiences. One of the issues is in the workplace, perhaps ageism, because they think that as you age, how is your brain functioning? Well, that is a complete myth.


Learning new skills can also improve cognitive abilities. For example, one study found that older adults who learned things like quilting, digital photography, or even ballroom dancing improved their memory and potentially put off dementia. And Alzheimer’s is critical to seek new social connections with others in engaging in those social activities. Of course, as I mentioned, ballroom dance and other dance classes are so valuable. My mother does an exercise class at the senior center book clubs. All those types of things can really keep your brain active and may also boost your cognitive and may also boost your mental help. And if you’re like my father-in-law, he’s still pretty busy using his brain in the retirement advisory practice I’m a co-owner of. He was still talking to older clients as friends until a couple of months ago. And they’re still kind of saying, Hey, Norman, what do you think about this?


What do you think about this? And he loves to share his skills and experiences. He loves to share his skills and experiences from so many years of working in this industry.


Okay, number four, it’s inevitable that older people will get to men. Older people will inevitably get dementia. Well, guess what? Dementia is not a normal part of aging, although the risk of it grows as people get older. It’s certainly not inevitable. And many people live into their nineties and beyond without any significant decline in their thinking and behavior, which is characteristic of dementia. I just mentioned my father-in-law, 93 years old, with no real signs of dementia from my perspective. And even my father, 87, I haven’t noticed anything. Maybe a little forgetfulness, like forgetting an appointment or losing your keys. That’s typical mild forgetfulness, which is very common in normal aging at 57; sometimes, I have that brain cramp.


Well, that’s normal. Nevertheless, if you have any concerns about your memory or you’re thinking, or you notice changes in how you’re behaving or your personality, even back to that topic of anxiety or depression, definitely bring it up to your doctor because some of these things can be treatable or reversible. And finding the cause and recognizing it in the first place and finding the cause is essential for determining how you can stave off that decline of your brain.


Number five, older adults should take it easy and avoid exercise, so they don’t get injured. <laugh> well, as an exercise buff and someone who never wants to stop moving, this is a big one to me. And as you age or as other people see your age, like family, children, and friends, they may think that you could do more harm to yourself than you would do good, especially if you have any chronic conditions.


However, studies show that you have much more to gain by being active and much more to lose by sitting too much. And I’m not going to include napping because you want to nap, you want to rest your body, so you want to move your body, but you need some rest time. Also, often inactivity is more to blame than age when older people lose the ability to do things independently. So, keep moving, people. My mother always said You have to keep moving. The famous basketball player, Larry Bird, said,  “Keep moving.” And almost anyone at any age with most health conditions can participate in some physical activity, even if it’s just walking your dog every day, getting up, and moving. If it’s vacuuming your house, cleaning your tub, or doing those types of daily living activities, that is better than nothing. Physical activity can also manage some of those chronic conditions as well.


But you need to check with your doctor on that. Exercise and physical activity are not only great for your physical and mental help, but they can help keep you independent as you age. My mom started taking a tai chi class at the local rec center, which definitely made her feel better. These similar mind and body movement practices have been shown to improve balance and stability in older adults. And, of course, this helps maintain independence and prevents one of the most significant risks to people as they get older and frailer is falling. So even yoga, check out yoga. So essential to keep that body strength. You don’t have to lift weights; you can do other movements to keep your core strong and your back straight and stand up tall. All those things are going to help prevent frailty from setting in falling balance.


It would be best if you kept all those in check. It would be best if you kept all those on your priority list so that you can live a healthier retirement.


Myth number six, if a family member has Alzheimer’s, I will have it too. Well, let’s break this down. A person’s chance of having Alzheimer’s disease may be higher if they have a family history of dementia because there are some genes that we know the increased risk. However, if you have a parent with Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t necessarily mean a child will develop the disease. You need to learn about your family history and talk to your doctor about any of these concerns. Environmental and lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, exposure to pollutants, and smoking may affect a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s. And while you cannot control the genes you inherited, of course, you can stay healthy as you age, exercise, control your blood pressure, watch what you eat, eat healthily, and of course, not smoke and not drink too much.


Alright, myth number seven. Now that I’m older, I will have to give up driving. I know again; I mentioned my mom; she’s 87, she still has her car, and she’s still going. She doesn’t drive at night. But is this something you have to think about? Well, of course, as the US population ages, the number of licensed older adults on the road will also increase. The Federal Highway Administration recorded a record high of 221.7 million licensed drivers in the US in 2016, including almost 42 million, or one in five, who are 65 or older. And, of course, with longevity rising and the number of people retiring, the baby boomers will go up quite a bit. So, you’re going to see many people to older people driving around. Of course, natural changes can occur with any age that can affect a person’s ability to move, like a slower response, diminished vision or hearing, and reduced strength or mobility.


The other night I was telling my mother that I was driving, it was dark, and my mother, the area where I live, is very dark, with few streetlights. And this deer darted out in front of me, and I slammed on the brakes. I was actually in my mother’s car, so I was glad I didn’t hit it, but I saw it out of my peripheral vision to see it coming. I didn’t know when it would cross in front of me. So, I had already started breaking, and then I had to press the brakes harder to avoid hitting it. However, I was thinking about older people and how they lose their peripheral vision. Had that been my mom or someone more senior, if they wouldn’t see that deer coming out or had the reaction time that I had to stop?


However, the question of when it’s time to limit or stop driving shouldn’t be about age. It’s about your ability to drive safely. And, of course, we know many younger drivers who could be better. So could be better needed to think about those things that affect your ability to drive and have honest conversations with the people that love you about your driving. Have them take a driving test with you to ensure you are okay to drive. That is so important for your health and safety and those of others on the road.


Alright, myth number eight, only women need to worry about osteoporosis. Well, osteoporosis is more common in women. This disease still affects many men and sometimes goes underdiagnosed. Men might not be as likely to have it because they start with more bone density than women.


One in five men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture by age 65 or 70. Men and women lose bone mass at the same rate. So many things that can put men at risk are the same for women, including your family history, which you can’t control not having enough calcium or vitamin D; I take both every day and do a little exercise. So again, you can exercise and stave off many diseases and things that can debilitate you. Low levels of testosterone, too much alcohol, taking certain drugs, and smoking are also risk factors. So, people get healthy and stay healthy.


Myth number nine, I’m too old to quit smoking. Yeah, my dad is 85, and he quit smoking, and I was like, “Whoa!” I mean, it’s been several years since he did it, but I think he just kind of stopped cold turkey.


So, it doesn’t matter how old or long you’ve been smoking; quitting anytime will improve your health. It’s like, Oh, it’s too late. I’m just going to quit smoking. No, if you leave anytime, it will improve your health. Smokers who quit have fewer illnesses such as colds and the flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia, and a better feeling of well-being. The benefits of quitting are almost immediate, according to many studies. Within a few hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood begins to decline. And your circulation improves in a few short weeks, and your lung function increases. Smoking causes an immediate and long-term rise in your heart rate and blood pressure, but quitting can lower your heart and blood pressure over time. And, of course, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of cancer.


Heart arc stroke, lung disease, quitting smoking also lowers your risk of cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and lung disease. Quitting can also reduce that yucky secondhand smoke exposure you give to other people around you. So it’s never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking. And, of course, you’ll set a healthy example for your children and grandchildren.

Myth number 10, my blood pressure has lowered or returned to normal, so I can stop taking my medication. Well, guess what? High blood pressure is a common problem for older adults, especially people in their eighties and nineties. And, of course, it can lead to serious health problems if not treated. So, if you take high blood pressure medication and your blood pressure goes down, the medicine and any lifestyle change you’ve made are working. However, it’s essential to continue your treatment for the long term.


If you stop taking your medicine, your blood pressure could increase again, increasing your risk for health problems like stroke and kidney disease. But what’s important is that you need to talk with your doctor about the possibility of changing or stopping your medication. And I want to do a bonus myth. And the other bonus myth is that it’s related to depression and loneliness, but as we age, we aren’t as happy. And I used to wonder about this, but the studies show that older people are some of the most satisfied people in the world, and there are various reasons for that, right? Oh, I’ve retired. I don’t have the pressures of kids and work and commute. And you’re happier because of those things. Those things are no longer in your life. But studies prove that as you get older, you do get happier.


So that’s a good thing. Because we’re already dealing with the fact that we’re getting older, we will be happier. And, of course, doing all these things that I just talked about definitely contributes to helping you be more comfortable. And, of course, it was her retirement. I’m all about helping women live a happier, healthier, and wealthier life and retirement. So, if you need help putting together a plan for any of those things, definitely reach out to me at I can connect you to experts or myself to help you get the coaching and guidance you need to live a happier, healthier, and wealthier life and retirement. It’s all about knowing more, having more, and getting her done. Reach out to me if you need help. I’m here anytime. Here’s getting you done.


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