The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to double from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060. It will be the first time in history that the number of older adults outnumbers children under 5. One out of every four 65 year olds will live past 90. And one out of every 10 will live past 95. This is really quite remarkable. As we try to understand what this change in demographics will mean for our society, the American Psychological Association has provided information about normal aging and a look at fact vs fiction. Here are a few to consider.
1. Most older adults live in nursing homes.
Myth…only about 5% live in nursing homes at any given time. This does increase with age, ranging from 1.1% for persons 65-74, 3.5% for persons 75-84, and 13.2% for persons 85+,
2. Older adults stay socially engaged and productive.
Reality…positive social connections really helps keep people physically and emotionally happy. Loneliness does have a negative physical and emotional impact.
3. Older adults have little to no interest in sex or intimacy
Myth…Although the frequency may decline with age, many older adults continue to enjoy a physically and emotionally fulfilling sex life. Though couples may need longer periods for arousal and have to change positions or techniques to accommodate any physical difficulties. the benefits of an active sex life include better sleep, less stress, a more positive mood and increased marital satisfaction.
4. Individuals can learn new skills even in late life
Reality… Older adults can definitely continue to learn new skills, though learning may take longer than for younger adults.Many older adults outperform their younger counterparts on intelligence tests that draw on an accumulated knowledge and experience.
5. Dementia is a normal part of aging.
Myth…approximately 5% of individuals between 71-79 and 37% of individuals above age 90
experience some form of dementia.
6 There is nothing that can be done to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth…Physical and mental inactivity, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression are all associated with an increased risk for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Each of these factors can be modified. Keeping mentally and physically active can help preserve cognitive skills and thus decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The APA offers the following tips to help yourself age well:
1. Exercise. Even a moderate amount of activity can make the frailest older adults stronger and improve mood.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and make adjustments for any changes in your functioning (hearing, vision, flexibility, strength).
3. Engage in routine preventive health behaviors such as immunizations for flu, pneumonia and routine screenings.
4. Advocate for yourself in healthcare settings. It is often helpful to bring along someone who is knowledgable about the issues at hand or can simply write down important information.
5. Seek assistance for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These are not normal parts of aging.
6. Be an interested and interesting person. Follow current events, attend cultural and social events. These are great ways to stay engaged with the world and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.