myths of aging


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MYTHS OF AGING. An Introduction to the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging. Background: Gerontology in the Mid-1980’s. “…persistent preoccupation with disability, disease, & chronological age” - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • MYTHS OF AGINGAn Introduction to theMacArthur Foundation Studyof Successful Aging

  • Background: Gerontology in the Mid-1980spersistent preoccupation with disability, disease, & chronological age

    a serious underestimation of the effects of lifestyle & other psychosocial factors on well-being of older persons.

  • The Project:a long-term research program to gather the knowledge needed to improve older Americans physical & mental abilities.16 Scientists--InterdisciplinaryEmphasis: the positive aspects of aging

  • The Study:Over $10 million in supportSub-projects:Studies of over 1000 high-functioning older people for 8 yearsStudies of hundreds of pairs of Swedish twins (genes vs lifestyle)lab-based studies of OA response to stressstudies of brain aging in humans & animals

  • Aging in America: We ARE Getting Older--WHY?Reduction in infant mortality & childhood death rates in 19th & early 20th CenturiesDecline in death rates among middle-age and olderPeople are taking better care of themselvesScience & medicine are taking better care of them as well

  • How Long Can We Live?Centenarians:Rare in 19001982--32,0001998--61,000Mid-21st Century--600,000

  • How Long Can We Live?In almost every species, the oldest age observed is approximately six times the length of time from birth to maturity. In the human case, this argues for a span of 108 or 120 yearsOn the other hand, many scientists now feel that it is unlikely that there is any fixed life span limit.

  • Undeniable Trends With Astonishing ImplicationsThe reshaping of the age pyramid to a slightly lopsided square pillar (pp. 8-9, Rowe & Kahn)the emergence of a striking preponderance of women.Todays OAs: More education; greater access to health care; improved sanitary conditions

  • On to the Myths...The topic of aging is durably encapsulated in a layer of myths in our society..a confusing blend of truth and fancy.the elderly are depicted as a figurative ball and chain holding back an otherwise spry collective society.Gerontologistshave been as much a part of the problem as the solution.

  • MYTH #1: To Be Old Is To Be Sick

    Shift in patterns of illness in OAs: From:acute, infectious illness-->chronic illness

  • Most Common AilmentsArthritis-- ~50%Hypertension/Heart Disease--~1/3Diabetes--11%Disorders Affecting CommunicationHearing impairment--32%Cataracts--17%Macular degeneration--9%

  • Comparison of OAs 1960/1990Dramatic Reductions:Hi BPHi CholesterolSmoking# of Diseases presentLost teeth due to dental disease

  • Life expectancy has increased

    Data support the Compression of Morbidity Theory.

    OAs PERCEPTION of self-health

  • MYTH #2You Cant Teach an Old Dog New Tricksthe less people are challenged, the less they can perform. But research shows that older people can, and do, learn new things--and they learn them well.The pace is different; the conditions are different. Schools & work organizations havent yet adapted to these differences.

  • Key Features Predicting Strong Mental FX in OARegular Physical ActivityStrong Social Support SystemBelief in ones ability to handle what life has to offer

    *All 3 can be initiated or increased in later life.

  • For Learning New Skills in OA:Work at ones own pace

    Have opportunities to practice

    Avoid embarrassment of not being able to keep up with younger counterparts

  • MYTH #3The Horse is Out of the BarnTheres no point in stopping now--the damage is already done.

    Nature is remarkably forgiving.

  • Cigarette smoking:

    The good effects of quitting smoking hold regardless of age, the number of years one smokes, or how heavy the smoking habit

  • Syndrome XA cluster of risk factors together raise the risk of heart attack & premature deathHigh blood sugar and insulin levelsHigh blood pressureHigh bad cholesterol & triglycerides

  • High blood pressure

    Drug treatments for high BP reduces risk of stroke (>1/3) and risk of heart attacks (>1/4)

  • ExerciseIncreases physical fitness, muscle size, & strengthResistance exercises enhance bone strengthImproves balanceMental exercise helps promote physical ability

  • MYTH #4The Secret is Choose Your Parents WiselyThe Swedish Twins Study showed that only about 30 percent of physical aging can be blamed on the genes and about half of the changes in mental function in aging are genetic.

    We are, in large part, responsible for our own old age.

  • MYTH #5The lights may be on, but the voltage is low.Sexuality in Old AgeSexual activity does tend to decrease in old ageTremendous individual differencesDecline in testosterone highly variable and only loosely linked with sexual performanceThe Kinsey report: a 50s eye-opener

  • MYTH #6OAs dont pull their own weightOlder people are burdens rather than contributors to society

    Unjust because:Performance measures are wrongThe playing field is not levelMillions are ready, willing and able to increase their productivity

  • Wrong Measures

    Only paid work counts as productive

  • Uneven playing field

    Older people arent given an equal chance for paid employmentDown-sizing, mergers, etc. affect older people disproportionatelyIts simple: Agism at work in the workplace

  • But the Real Truth is:

    Many are Ready, Willing, and Able



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