Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to buy into the hype. Age truly is just a number, says Robert Palmer, MD, the John Franklin Chair in Geriatrics and the Director of the EVMS Glennan Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology.
So if you believe that lack of sleep, of independence and even of sex is part and parcel with aging, think again. Dr. Palmer chimes in and helps us to debunk these six “mature adult” myths.
Myth #1: Age will put a damper on your sex life.
This doesn’t have to be true and is more in your control than you may think, Dr. Palmer says. In fact, good sex is healthy and senior sex is not an oxymoron.
According to a study by the National Council on Aging, men and women in their 80s are not only have sex, they report having a high level of enjoyment too.
While your physical response to the human desire for affection and companionship may slow based on factors related to your age, the desire for passion is not magically eliminated when you reach your senior years. Rather, Dr. Palmer says, those who had an enjoyable sex life before turning 65, will likely continue to do so as they get older.
Myth #2: To be old is to be dependent.
In reality, the percentage of seniors living in nursing homes has been steadily declining and is now only about 5 percent of people over 65. That means a great number of seniors remain in their own homes longer and find other ways to maintain a sense of independence.
Myth #3: Seniors don’t need many ZZZs.
Just because you are up with the sun these days doesn’t mean you don’t need just less likely to get it. Like many things, your sleep pattern does change as you get older. For many seniors, it takes longer to fall asleep and it becomes more difficult to stay asleep. And when sleep patterns are disrupted by daytime napping and frequent nighttime awakenings, the quality of your sleep is poorer.
But age isn’t always the culprit, Dr. Palmer says. Many sleep-related problems in older people stem from causes like medication side effects. Talk to your doctor if you notice sudden changes in your sleep patterns and make sure to let him know about any over-the-counter and prescription medications you may be taking.
Myth #4: Genes will determine how long you live.
Wrong again, Dr. Palmer says. While genes do play an important role in who will get diseases early in life, by the time people reach their late 40s, lifestyle and environmental factors play a far more crucial role inlongevity than DNA.
Myth #5: Dentures are in your future.
Just because you are older doesn’t mean you are destined to have dentures. Rather, poor dental health and tooth loss are more closely tied to systematic diseases and inflammation, prescription medication side effects, functional disabilities and forgetting to brush and floss after every meal.
Myth #6: What was I saying? Memory loss is inevitable.
So not true, Dr. Palmer says. A slowing of your recent memory recall time is normal with aging, but not memory loss. Anxiety, depression fatigue and even poor nutrition can play with your mind and temporarily affect memory. Also, some medications — both over-the-counter and prescription — have been linked to cognitive impairment, Dr. Palmer says, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you are taking.
Seniors who suffer from severe memory loss are more likely the victims of an underlying illness like Alzheimer’s or strokes. While cognitive impairment is something you should talk to your doctor about, Dr Palmer says, it isn’t a for-sure sign that something is amiss. Only up to 20 percent of people experience more serious problems with thinking or memory, studies suggest.
Read more about senior health myths, facts and trends.