Stoney Brook Aging Myths Series
PART THREE: 5 Key Cliches About Seniors’ Mental State
Welcome back to Stoney Brook’s Aging Myths Series. In this article, we’ll be discussing misconceptions about the mental and emotional state of older adults. Did you catch our earlier articles providing an overview of these annoying cliches, like the top physical aging myths?
Explore the whole series, so you can avoid dangerous misunderstandings and help ensure the senior in your life can preserve their total well-being.
Myth #1: When We Get Older, We Can’t Think As Clearly As We Used To
Although a certain number of the aging population will face mental conditions, rest assured that much of our brain power – such as verbal and math abilities and abstract reasoning – can increase with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the knowledge that seniors have accumulated over the years provides yet another reason they tell employers to hire older adults. This “crystallized intelligence” leads to enhanced job performance, especially when seniors take on service- and information-related positions.
We can strengthen these abilities and combat mental conditions, such as dementia, which can reduce short-term or long-term memory. To maintain an active brain and sharp thought processes, incorporate – daily – mental engagement, physical exercise, and in-person social interaction.
Myth #2: Expect to Experience Mental Decline, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Despite the stereotypes, mental decline is avoidable in senior hood. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Office on Aging asserts that most older adults can expect:
- Good mental health and fewer mental health problems than younger age groups.
- Age-related changes in thinking are usually mild and don’t significantly interfere with daily functioning.
- To be capable of learning new skills and demonstrating wisdom and creativity.
- To outperform younger people on intelligence tests that draw on accumulated knowledge and experience.
The APA also reports that “Dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia) is not a normal part of aging. Approximately 5% of individuals between 71 and 79, and 37% of the population above age 90, are affected.”
Studies show that the risk of dementia increases as we get older, and the risk of Alzheimer’s may increase with a family history of dementia. On the other hand, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says, that even having a parent with Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean one will also develop the disease. Many seniors flourish “into their 90s and beyond without the significant declines in thinking and behavior that characterize dementia.”
Although we can’t change our inherited genes, we can decrease the threat of cognitive and mental decline. Start by brushing up on your family history and taking healthy steps regarding linked factors – staying mentally and physically active, controlling your blood pressure, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, managing diabetes and depression, and avoiding exposure to pollutants and other environmental dangers.
Note that mild forgetfulness, slower reaction times, and reduced problem-solving abilities can be typical. But you should speak with doctors regarding any concerns about changes in memory, thinking, behavior, and personality, so they can aid in finding the cause and treating or reversing any issues. A professional memory care community would be a safe solution for any senior struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other form of memory loss.
Myth #3: Depression Is Typical in Aging Adults
Here’s some great news: Recent studies show that people are happiest at retirement age. While seniors bear an increased risk of depression, the majority of them do not have this potentially severe mood disorder. You do want to be vigilant, however, as older adults may exhibit less obvious symptoms and be less inclined to discuss their feelings. Because of that, they often get misdiagnosed or undertreated.
Once this medical condition is treated effectively, seniors can finally experience an unfettered zest for life – reveling in the wealth of opportunities available in retirement, and engaging in the passions, interests, and connections that bring them happiness.
Myth #4: Stress Disappears As Soon As We Reach Our Senior Years
Despite the fantasy many of us envision, retirement is not always a peaceful time to unwind without worries. Instead, it can often be an anxiety-inducing adventure that can speed up the aging process. In truth, sadly, seniors are more vulnerable to stress and its numerous causes and threats. If it continues unchecked, stress can result in and worsen high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and a broad variety of other serious physical and mental problems.
Our four-part Stress Management Series explores this important topic in-depth. Read up on it, so you can spot the signs and symptoms of stress in loved ones or yourself – and discover basic strategies for relieving stress. You can also rely on an assisted living community or a memory care community that’s designed by experts to be maintenance-free, minimize stressors, and offer an abundance of stress-reducing activities that seniors can do.
Myth #5: It’s Normal to Feel Lonely When You’re Old
As you age, it’s typical to experience a shrinking social circle. Such isolation can cause disturbing conditions – sadness, anxiety, and depression among them. Fortunately, a whole host of opportunities exist for older adults to spend their new free time indulging in the beneficial camaraderie of family and friends, including at senior centers, clubs, and church, and while volunteering.
The type of ready-made community that Stoney Brook’s assisted living and memory care residents find promises the meaningful interactions vital to being healthier and happier – and living longer. Years of research prove that people who uphold positive relationships feel more fulfilled and enjoy a greater sense of belonging and of being valued contributors to their community.
Next, look for our final blog installment in this Aging Myths Series. In it, you’ll unearth more stereotypes about growing older – especially, the truths behind the lifestyle expectations of elderly people.
Flourish fabulously with meaningful senior living.
Fulfill the promise of healthy and momentous days ahead, devoted to those pastimes that make you happiest. An expert in assisted living and memory care, Stoney Brook designed its Central Texas senior living communities to enrich residents’ physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and emotional wellness. Schedule a complimentary visit to experience our relationship-centered approach firsthand, and see how residents interact often and enjoy ample, fun, and stimulating activities.
Plus, continue to explore Stoney Brook’s free, insightful resources, all intended to aid seniors and their caregivers in the pursuit of aging well. Subscribe to our blog.