What you need to know:
- Age alone is not a risk factor for depression. There are other risk factors, which may include stressful changes in life, little or lack of social support, isolation, illness, or family history of mental illnesses.
- Dementia is a syndrome, normally of a progressive nature, caused by a range of brain illnesses such as alzheimer’s or stroke, which affect thinking, behaviour, memory, and ability to carry out daily activities.
The picture many of us had of old people while growing up was one of incapacitated people who relied on others for survival.
This, of course, is not the case. The modern generation of elderly people, those between their 60s and 80s, are living life to the full, and many of them do not need someone to hold their hand. For a long time, several myths have been associated with aging. Today, we bust them.
MYTH #1: All old people develop depression.
FACT: Most adults in old age do not get depressed.
Depression in not a normal part of growing old, rather, it is a disease that can affect people of any age group.
Age alone is not a risk factor for depression. There are other risk factors, which may include stressful changes in life, little or lack of social support, isolation, illness, or family history of mental illnesses.
Elderly people living with their families, or who are in constant touch with their families, and are in good health, have a lower chance of developing depression compared to those in poor health, living in a care facility, or living in isolation. Creating a supportive, age-friendly social and physical environment can have a positive impact on the elderly.
MYTH #2: Elderly people are incompetent.
FACT: Physical disabilities in old age are often mistakenly associated with intellectual deficits.
Many people in old age are able to comprehend and also appreciate information given to them. They are also able to reason and make sound decisions and choices.
For instance, just because an old person cannot walk without support, does not necessarily mean that such a person cannot make a reasonable decision, or is not of sound mind.
MYTH #3: Elderly people are not productive, and are a burden to the society.
FACT: This is not true. There are quite a number who are still in active employment, or running their own successful businesses.
A good number are also involved in volunteer work in hospitals, churches, and other charitable organisations.
Older people also play the important role of caregivers – think about it, how many grandparents raise and educate their grandchildren? How many babysit while their parents are out working?
No, the elderly are not a burden.
MYTH #4: Bad lifestyle habits acquired early in life cannot be reversed in old age.
FACT: It is true that healthy aging begins with healthy behaviour early in life.
These includes physical activity, diet, and extent of exposure to health risks, like those caused by excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking.
However, it is never too late to make positive healthy choices in life. For instance, a person who quits smoking between 60 and 70 years reduces the risk of premature death by 50 per cent.
MYTH #5: Dementia is a normal part of aging
FACT: Although dementia is largely associated with older people, it is not a normal part of aging.
Dementia is a syndrome, normally of a progressive nature, caused by a range of brain illnesses such as alzheimer’s or stroke, which affect thinking, behaviour, memory, and ability to carry out daily activities.
The estimated number of people over 60 years with dementia is about two-eight in every 100 people.
As you grow older, bear in mind that old age is not to be dreaded. Every birthday you celebrate is a blessing, so while you blow out the candles, don’t allow myths and misconceptions to blur the view of your future.
My advice? Make the most of your young life, make informed choices, eat healthy, keep fit, and look forward to an enjoyable, fulfilling life in old age.