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Busting myths about ageing

9th November 2020

Many people make assumptions about ageing, how older age will affect them and what it is like to grow old. There are many assumptions around this stage of life and plenty of myths or stereotypes about the age of the population in the UK and the rest of the world, so it is important to find out what is true and what is not.

Whilst there are some things which are true about getting older such as some older people suffer from mobility problems and need stairlifts put into their homes, there are other stories which are not. There are lots of positive aspects about ageing and research has shown that you can help preserve your health and mobility as you age by adopting healthy lifestyle choices.

Read on to find out whether myths about ageing are true or fiction.

Popular myths about ageing

People get shorter when they age

True

As people age, it is true that they get shorter?

This is a normal part of ageing and it happens as a result of three things. One of these is that as we age, the discs between your vertebrates lose fluid, so they flatten a bit, making your spine is shrink slightly.

The arches of your feet also flatten as you age and finally, you lose muscle mass as you age which can lead to poorer posture.

According to an article on NBC News, people on average shrink “about a quarter to a third of an inch per decade for every decade after 40. All told, men will get about 1.2 to 1.5 inches shorter, and women will lose up to 2 inches, by age 70”.

As you get older, you need less sleep

Fiction

Some people when they get older may find themselves struggling to sleep and a common misconception is that as you age you need less sleep.

This is not the case as although everyone needs different amounts of sleep (around seven to nine hours each night), people still need the same amount of sleep when they get older as they did when they were 40-years-old.

It is vital that people get a good night’s sleep as it has been found to keep you healthier and more alert and it can reduce the risk of falls and improve your mental wellbeing.

Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep include:

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark – the ideal bedroom temperature is 18°C
  • Don’t go on your TV or computer just before bed
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal late at night

READ MORE: Tips for getting a great night’s sleep in hot weather

You can only do gentle exercise as you get older

Fiction

As you age many people think that exercise could do more harm than good, especially if it puts you through your paces. This, however, is not the case as studies have shown that there are a lot more positives by being active.

Almost everyone, at any age and with most health conditions, can exercise or participate in some form of physical activity. Exercising can help certain chronic conditions and are beneficial for both your mental and physical health.

Michelle Green, the blogger behind Fifty and Fab, says that one myth that drives her mad because it is not true is that older people can only do gentle exercise.

She said: “Strength training is so good for us as we get older, I certainly hope I will still be lifting weights at 80 plus! So far I don’t think I have found any myths that are true, it is all about developing a positive attitude.”

You become less creative as you age

Fiction

Lee Holmes runs the blog Supercharged Food and she said that one myth she has regularly heard about ageing is that you get less creative when you get older.

“One myth I have heard is that as people age they become less creative. I disagree as so many people who are in the older age bracket take up creative hobbies and also love to cook and get creative in the kitchen.”

You don’t just stop being creative when you get older and this has been proven during the coronavirus pandemic by people like Sir Captain Tom Moore as he came up with a creative idea to raise money for the NHS.

The popular saying “You can't teach an old dog new tricks” is not true as your brains continue to develop through and beyond middle age, meaning you can still learn new things and get creative.

READ MORE: Most inspirational older adults

You have to stop driving

Fiction

Another misconception when it comes to ageing is that you will have to stop driving as you get older. This is not true.

According to Information Now, “There are over 4 million drivers (in the UK) who are over 70 years old. As there are no laws set in place as to when you have to stop driving, it really depends on your health and ability to drive.”

If you’re over 70 and want to keep on driving, you’ll have to renew your driving licence as it expires. Due to the current coronavirus, if your licence expires between 1 February 2020 and 31 December 2020 it will be automatically extended for 11 months.

You can renew your driving licence online here. Once you have renewed your driving licence, you’ll need to renew it every three years after that. It is free to renew your licence.

You bruise more easily as you age

True

Bruises generally form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near the skin's surface are broken by the impact of a blow or injury. Blood leaks out of the vessels and initially appears as a black-and-blue mark, but eventually, your body reabsorbs the blood, and the mark disappears.

It is true that as you get older you bruise more easily and this is something that Lee Holmes has found to be true.

She said: “Yes (it is true) that you bruise more easily as you age. This is due to your skin thinning and losing the protection of a layer of fat especially when you bump into things!”

Bruises can appear on older people after a fall and this is why older people with mobility problems should consider a curved or straight stairlift in their home, so they avoid falling on the stairs as well as getting rid of any trip hazards in their home.

If you pull out a grey hair, more will appear

Fiction

When you discover a grey hair, there are two options. You can either leave it and embrace it or you can pluck it.

A common myth is that if you pluck a grey hair then many more greys will grow in its place. This, however, is not true.

Speaking in an article on the Today website, Randy Schueller, who is a cosmetic scientist and an author of a beauty-myth-busting book called ‘It's OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick’, shares her views on this particular myth.

“The follicle (the little tube beneath the skin that produces the hair) is still alive and will produce another hair to replace the one that was pulled out.

“That's a complete myth (pulling out a grey hair will produce others) because what you do to one follicle doesn't affect its neighbours.”

Older people aren’t interested in the outside world

Fiction

This is a myth that Jonathan Look, a writer and photographer who runs the Life Part 2 blog, has heard on a number of occasions.

He said: “Many older adults become more interested in the outside world when they have more time to explore it. I am going to turn 60 next year and over the last 10 years, I have lived in seven different countries and explored dozens more. In the past few years I have walked the Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pier du Port, France to Camino de Santiago, Spain, run in the London Marathon, SCUBA dived in the Indian Ocean, eaten a beating cobra heart in Vietnam and slept on a felucca on the Nile and done hundreds of other things that younger people just dream of doing. Most of all of my friends, including the ones around my age and older, are active and curious about the world.”

You are ‘too old’ to wear certain clothes

Fiction

Another myth that blogger Michelle Green has heard being told before is that you are ‘too old’ to wear something.

She said, “On my blog, I am really keen to promote confidence as we get older. Good style never ages, so don’t be confined by what shops you can or can’t go into. Wear what you love, get a style consultation if you need a bit of help, search blogs, Pinterest and Instagram for ideas, but be you!”

Your metabolism slows down

True

It's true that your metabolism is slower when you get older and this means that your body doesn't burn calories as fast as it used to. However, weight gain in older people is not a given, but it is important that you adjust your habits to maintain a healthy weight.

Some things you can consider to keep a healthy weight are:

  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise
  • Stress less

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to ageing, but this article has explored some of the most popular and explored the truth or fiction behind them.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.