The Myths of Senior Living: How Many Do You Believe?
Do you believe any of these myths about senior citizens? The World Health Organization published a document 20 years ago entitled, Ageing: Exploding the Myths. This document, though now dated, set out to correct many erroneous beliefs about senior citizens, worldwide, and to formally address the aging of the global population. In one of the opening statements, the WHO document stated, Older people are often viewed as a homogeneous group from mainly industrialized countries, who no longer contribute to their families and societies, and may even be a burden. The truth could not be more different. The majority of older people prove these notions wrong every day, and it is an example that has inspired the WHO to focus on ageing.
See how many of these myths about senior citizens you can dismiss:
#1 Most older people live in developed countries - Not true, most older people, over 60% of them, live in developing countries. The growth of the aging population in these developing areas is due to the sharp decline in premature mortality from disease and infection, accompanied by falling birth rates. This trend by which more people live to reach older age while fewer children are born is referred to as “population aging.”
#2 Older people are all the same - In fact, older people constitute a very diverse group. Senior citizens age in unique ways, given their gender, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Whether they live in industrialized or developing countries, urban or rural settings, many factors like geographical location, family size, life skills, education, income, social roles and experience make people less and less alike as they advance in age.
#3 Men and women age the same way - Women outlive men because of biological advantages, but their longevity also makes them more susceptible to chronic disease associated with old age. Gender differences are also attributed to socially-determined roles and responsibilities. WHO recommends in this report that boys and girls be better educated to understand and avoid gender stereotyping, and to combat gender discrimination in all aspects of life including jobs, pay, education, and access to health care.
#4 Older people are frail - Though there are differences in the way that functional capacities are maintained in different groups of older people, the vast majority live in independent living settings and remain physically fit well into later life and maintain high “functional capacity.” And although our biological systems decline in later age, like our senses and muscle tone, there are also many other factors that accelerate this decline, such as diet, alcohol, smoking, and other lifestyle and social factors. Importantly, the decline can be slowed when these factors are addressed.
#5 Older people have nothing to contribute - This view is based on older adults’ reduced participation in the workforce, but paid occupations are not the only contributions of this age group. Innumerable contributions to their families, society, and the informal sector of the economy in the form of the care of grandchildren and adult children, health care, low wage occupations, and volunteer activities in community, school, religious and political organizations.
#6 Older people are an economic burden on society - Despite the contributions made by older adults to the economic development of society (in paid and unpaid positions), there is a growing concern about the mushrooming numbers who will depend on their state or regional governments for income security and health care. Global recommendations including stopping age discrimination in the workplace, promoting income security policies to provide income protection, access to health care, and life-long programs to increase employment opportunities for older adults.
All who work with older adults should strive to promote the factors that keep people as healthy as possible into older ages. The website Livingto100.Club offers a collection of articles and blogs, along with age-related products for older adults who are striving to remain positive in their advancing years. The Club is intended as a frame of mind, a metaphor for maintaining a positive outlook about ourselves and our future. There are no dues, or meetings, or even a place to hang out. This Club is open to anyone who literally plans on living to 100, and figuratively, to anyone who wants to remove all the negative mental clutter, who believes in a positive, energizing future, and who believes in our self.