5 Common Myths About Aging Debunked

While aging is a natural process among all living organisms, many people fear the uncertainty of it. Being exposed to misconceptions about growing old certainly does not help either. Here are five such myths that you should stop believing: 

1. Older adults have no interest in sex

According to the latest National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA) survey, a majority of Americans from the 65-80 age group believe sex is important to their quality of life. Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported being interested in sex.

Erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness may occur due to age-related health problems and medication use, which can often reduce the frequency of sexual activity. Despite this, experience combined with increased intensity are possible factors that can increase sexual satisfaction even as a person gets older. 

2. Habits don't matter since genetics dictate everything 

"How you live your life, what you consume, and most importantly how you think has more of an impact than genes," said anti-aging physician Dr. Christopher Calapai. "Your genes can change based on diet, exercise, meditation, and exposure to chemicals. Your genetic jackpot is yours to create."

For instance, even if a person has a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease, they should not ignore modifiable risk factors such as physical activity, mental inactivity, smoking, obesity, etc. which can make a huge difference in the long run.

3. As we age, the brain stops producing new cells

A recent study revealed new cells were formed in the brains of adults as old as 79. "We found that older people have similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons from progenitor cells as younger people do," said lead author Dr. Maura Boldrini.

The team also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus which is a structure used for emotion and cognition across all ages. The reason why some people experience a decline in brain power as they grow older may be attributed to the lack of blood flow, according to the researchers.

Boldrini emphasized the importance of physical activity and staying intellectually engaged to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. 

4. Exercise is unsafe for older adults

Physical activity is highly recommended for people of any age. Older adults too, require regular exercise with adequate precautions to reduce the risk of falls, prevent bone and muscle loss, improve symptoms of existing problems like diabetes, and more.

"There's a powerful myth that getting older means getting decrepit," said Dr. Chhanda Dutta, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging. "It's not true. Some people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s are out there running marathons and becoming body-builders."

5. People inevitably become sad or depressed as they grow old

According to Dr. Robert Roca, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, depression during old age is often caused by loss. 

"They lose loved ones or friends, they lose their identity because they retire, their physical vigor declines and they can’t do as many activities as they used to."

However, he added this is not the norm of aging as older people are no more likely than younger people to be depressed. By seeking help and getting screened for depression, older adults can receive support and live a much more active and happy life.