Maybe it’s just me, but as I age I find myself using my increased maturity to explain away my own forgetfulness. Well, convenient as that may be, it may also not be true.
It is true that we are a rapidly aging society. Some statistics: In 2016, there were 770,780 Canadians aged 85 or older and 8,230 centenarians in Canada - persons over 100! That is a stark contrast to how few persons there were aged 85 or older within our population just 50 years ago. While those over aged 85 represent about 2.2% of our total population now, by 2051, more than 5.7 per cent of Canada’s population will be 85 or older. Internationally, Japan has the highest percentage of people aged 85 or older, currently standing at 4.0 percent. With so much peer company among elders as a result of unprecedented personal longevity, you’d think that our bad habits and stereotypes about old age drawn from an earlier era when finding someone 85 or older was rare, should be coming to an end! We can all be guilty of unintended examples of ageism at times and while never appropriate, a professor at Concordia University has this to say about aging that might change our historical paradigm about aging.
Quoted recently, Psychology professor Karen Li debunks these common aging myths:
Older people are less happy and more depressed. “Some studies indicate that older people report feeling happier than young and middle-aged adults,”
Everyone gets dementia. “That is not the case. In Canada, approximately seven per cent of all seniors aged 65 and older have a dementia diagnosis, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and other forms. Importantly, vascular dementia is the second-most common after Alzheimer’s, but it is more preventable through healthy lifestyle practices.”
Older people become disinterested in sex. “For older people, sexuality and intimacy may be expressed in a different way.”
“An old dog can’t learn new tricks.” According to Li, that adage is inaccurate. “Older adults can learn new things. They can acquire technical skills and absorb new information, although this may take longer than before.”
If your memory isn’t as good as it once was, you are getting dementia. Some decline in the ability to remember is a normal part of the aging process. “As we age, there are normal changes to our cognitive abilities. However, world knowledge, vocabulary and language skills are typically preserved and can actually improve as we age.”
It could be that those of us aged 55 and older, referred to as elders and those of us aged 65 and older, referred to as seniors would like to see no reduction in our physical or cognitive functions as we age. Yes, that would be nice but there is also no reason to accelerate the perceived consequences of normal physical or cognitive reductions due to aging either. I have made a resolution to end the pity party that I find I sometimes have over a ‘senior moment’ and instead, will now try not to say aloud that pre-programed and careless stereotype that so many of us have been guilty of sharing.