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Friday, July 29, 2011

Five Myths of Aging

As part of our Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) coursework, we were asked to approach working with seniors in new ways and have the ability to move beyond common myths of aging. As a general society, I believe we still have work to do to overcome stigmas, stereotypes and old ways of thinking when interacting with the elders around us.

As a friendly reminder to those who work with seniors, have aging parents or for those who want to learn more about the aging population, I thought I’d share the Five Myths of Aging:

Myth 1: To Be Old is to Be Sick -Although health concerns and some level of disability can be common for seniors, it does not mean he or she is sick. Many older adults live healthy and productive lives into their advanced years by having the ability to cope and adapt to a new set of limitations. One example is the use of assistive devices like electric scooters or hearing aids.

Myth 2: You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks -
Much research has been done about the functionality of the brain in the past few years and * “…neurobiology has shown that the human brain actually retains a high degree of neuroplasticity, the ability to learn new things, even into advanced age.” One example includes our Computer Club members, who continue to expand their knowledge about their laptops, the Internet and social media!

Myth 3: The Secret to Successful Aging is to Choose your Parents Wisely -
It’s interesting to note some researchers believe the role of genetics becomes less critical as we get older. For example, the MacArthur Research Program on Successful Aging studied identical and fraternal twins raised apart and determined that *“…only about 30 percent of physiological aging was attributable to genetics.” They also discovered that * “…the likelihood of being fat, having hypertension, having high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and having decreased lung function was largely not inherited but instead was due to lifestyle and environmental factors.”

Myth 4: The Horse is Out of the Barn -As we age it’s easy to think “it’s too late” to go back to school, travel the world, change careers, or learn a new skill. But since people are living longer overall, older adults are turning this myth on its head! It’s great to see the mature generation starting new businesses, travelling to new places, getting married, and taking on new adventures (one of our residents skydiving on her 80th birthday comes to mind!)

Myth 5: The Elderly Don’t Pull their Own Weight -
This statement is also untrue, as we are experiencing more seniors in the workplace, going to the poles to vote, volunteering, and passing their skills and expertise on to the next generation. Curtis Gans, Director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University in Washington said, ** “Seniors vote at a rate of about 60 percent more than young people and about 10 percentage points higher than the national average.” Gans added, ** “Seniors are the only group in America that has been increasing its rate of voter turnout, especially in the 75-and-older range where modern medicine is keeping people alive longer.”

*Text book, Working with Seniors: Health, Financial, and Social Issues, Society of Certified Senior Advisors (2009)

** Archive (2008) Link:

Christie Munson, CSA, lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for Beatitudes Campus (a Continuing Care Retirement Community) and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at