The Golden Years.
It is the popular phrase used to describe the retirement years. It is a time when, free from jobs and the responsibilities that often tie us down when we’re younger, seniors and boomers are encouraged to embrace life and enjoy all that it has to offer.
But it is hard to grab life by the horns and let loose with so many negative images of aging bombarding us every day. While aging brings with it certain unavoidable issues, the fact is, aging is not the end of the world.
There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to aging that simply are not true. Some people have been so impacted by them that they develop an intense fear of the aging process. Let’s separate the facts from the myths when it comes to getting older.
Myth #1 – Feeling Old
We’ve all heard the phrase “age is a state of mind.” Yet many people worry the exact opposite is true. But a 2009 Pew Research Survey provides evidence the phrase holds some merit. The survey revealed that the older people get, the younger they actually feel.
Half of the respondents age 18 to 29 indicated they felt their actual age, while another 25 percent said they felt slightly older. In a stark contrast, 60 percent of respondents age 65 and older said they felt younger than their actual age, compared with 32 percent who said they felt their age and just 3 percent who said they felt older than their chronological age. A third of respondents age 65 to 74 said they felt 10 to 19 years younger, and one in six said they felt at least 20 years younger.
Many of the respondents said they attributed their ability to feel younger than their actual years due to a “count my blessings” attitude, further providing that age is truly a state of mind. Think positively, and good things can happen.
Myth #2 – Loss of Brain Function
Senior moments. It’s the fun phrase used to describe issues with memory as we age. But loss of brain function is no joking matter. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia are among the greatest fear many people have about getting older.
But the good news is, some scientific studies have shown that the mental decline of the middle-aged brain likely is overstated. A 2011 article appearing in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology indicates the exact opposite is true. Verbal and math abilities, as well as spatial and abstract reasoning capabilities, all appear to improve during middle age.
Emerging research has shown promising results for seniors and boomers who keep their minds challenged. Learning a second language, or regularly engaging the brain in other activities which require the use of both hemispheres of the brain, appears to be effective in preventing brain atrophy, which can contribute to the development of conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The trick is to keep the brain challenged and active.
Myth #3- Physical Weakness
Getting older brings with it a wealth of health risks, including osteoporosis. But the aging process alone isn’t a guarantee that seniors and boomers will develop these health issues.
One of the biggest fears of seniors and boomers is becoming frail and physically weak; yet it doesn’t have to happen. Eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a proper exercise regimen will help seniors and boomers to remain physically strong as they age. According to the National Institute of Health, remaining physically active on a regular basis also helps to prevent many of the diseases that can accompany the aging process.
There are many seniors and boomers who continue to make waves as being among the most physically talented in the world. Take Johanna Quaas, born November 20, 1925 in Germany. As of 2012, at the age of 86, she was still able to do this. For her, being physically frail was not reality, and it doesn’t have to be for you, either.
Many senior living communities offer a wealth of exercise classes and opportunities, making it easier than ever to stay in shape and stay healthy. If you are still living in your own home, check out your local YMCA or health club, or find a Silver Sneakers program near you. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of the Silver Sneakers program.
Myth #4 – Boredom
Empty nest syndrome is just one of the many issues seniors and boomers worry about as they age. Being less social and becoming more isolated are among the other common fears.
While social isolation can be a real concern for seniors and boomers who are housebound due to health issues, it is not the reality for those who are of good mental and physical health. Numerous studies have shown that older adults with empty nests actually have greater marital satisfaction and a more vital social life. Seniors and boomers possess a greater social intelligence, giving them the ability to choose friends and make judgment calls about how relationships work.
In addition to warding off boredom, maintaining an active social life helps keep the brains of seniors and boomers healthy, and can even help to decrease stress.
Seniors and boomers who have downsized to a senior living community will find they are presented with a number of social activities and opportunities. Senior living communities offer a variety of planned social engagements, such as parties and socials, game nights, group outings and even vacation opportunities. Even the very setup of most senior living communities provides ample opportunity to meet new people and engage in social activities.
Myth #5 – Loss of Purpose
This is a huge misconception about the aging process. While it can be true that many people find their identities in their careers, retirement does not mean you can no longer have a meaningful life.
Volunteering is a great way to find new meaning in your life following retirement. It is one of many ways for boomers and seniors to find an identity that is not associated with their former career. In addition to allowing you the opportunity to assist a great charity or cause of your choosing, there are other benefits associated with volunteerism. Studies have shown that seniors and boomers who volunteer are able to preserve their mental and physical well being far longer than their counterparts who choose not to volunteer.
Want to learn more ways to beat the common myths associated with the aging process? Consider attending an Upside of Downsizing conference. Learn more here.