Stereotype of Aging

Seriously! An old, ordinary, unassuming woman transitioned from farm work to a quieter life of painting and making delicious preserves for her children is like a sudden change! She loved painting scenes of rural life which made her famous overnight.

She is none other than Grandma Mosses, an enthusiastic painter who painted until she was aged 101.

All of us are aware that aging causes wrinkles and grey hair. But what about our mental health?

While there are several changes in your body, your brain also undergoes changes as you age, which may impact your memory and thinking skills. Also, several stereotypes of aging are pervasive in our culture. As shown through several mediums like films, televisions, or even jokes, misconceptions and stereotypes about aging and seniors are prevalent.

Successful aging is a concept that consists of freedom from disease and disability, good cognitive health and physical functioning, social bonds and connections and several productive activities including hobbies. Many people are eager to postpone their old age and regard it as a phase that should never arrive.

Today’s old age group is generally healthier, happier and financially better than previous generations. People can prepare for aging better because a plethora of options is available.

Stereotypes of Aging
Stereo Type of aging

While some feel that seniors should be retired, they are the only people who are the most trustworthy and reliable with long years of experience than younger workers but are usually discriminated against for their assumed declining mental and physical vitality.

Seniors are usually perceived as less dedicated and motivated and competent at work. Research says that as compared to younger people, older people are more productive at their jobs. Numerous studies also show that older employees are viewed as challenging to be trained or retrained and thus are much more valuable than other employees. Older workers are assumed to have low competence and are spoken about their inability to change, their presumed shorter tenure with the company and less potential for development.

Do any movies feature older actors and actresses? How were these older actors portrayed?
Media also portrays elderly with negative cultural attitudes towards aging. The society tends to glorify youth and associate it with beauty, while elders are often associated with grumpiness, crankiness and hostility. It is rare to find roles of older people that convey the fullness of life or their experiences of life.

Old couple walking with their elephant into the jungle, in Thailand

Usually, people are full of misconceptions of aging and rarely understand the process of aging until they reach that age themselves. Myths and assumptions associated with aging continue to be prevalent among common people.

Stereotypes of aging


Stereotypes of Aging 1: Aging is depressing


Several people believe that aging is depressing, while many studies say that seniors are among the happiest group. Those who think that aging is painful also think that aging makes seniors grumpier and crankier. People who are unhappy in their adulthood seem to be the same in their later years and similarly, good-natured people continue a happy trajectory as they age. In the end, it is the attitude of the person that matters and not the age group.

Stereotype1 : Aging is Depressing
Stereotype1 : Aging is Depressing

Stereotypes of Aging 2: Ageing leads to loneliness


People also believe that aging leads to loneliness. Social isolation may be a problem for seniors due to limited mobility, lack of transportation or those who have lost their loved ones. But usually, seniors manage to stay socially engaged. Hanging out with the family, enjoying with friends at places such as the local senior Centre or the club, going to their place of worship etc., help the seniors to stay socially active and happy.

Stereotypes of Aging 3: Ageing dulls wits and gradually causes dementia


While aging can create changes in your cognitive skills, older people may sometimes perform much better in certain areas of intelligence than others. Their decision-making skills and mental capabilities mostly depend on accumulated experience and knowledge like settling disputes and enhancing one’s vocabulary. These skills clearly get better over time. Research says that only 5% of those who are above the age of 65 developed dementia. Seniors are also said to have good cognitive skills if they develop them.

Stereotypes of Aging 4: Ageing makes you unproductive


Retired people may have left their workplace, but they are usually never unproductive. They contribute countless hours to activities such as helping in child-rearing, being engaged by spending time in their place of worship, voluntarily taking part in several activities and exercising makes an enormous impact on society. They enjoy spending time with their dear ones, meet their friends and family and enjoy with their relatives.

Country Fair Granda Moses Cognitive Reserve
Country Fair Granda Moses Cognitive Reserve

Stereotypes of Aging 5: Ageing makes you less creative


There are a plethora of examples that dispel the stereotype that aging makes you less creative. Many artists actually find themselves and master their art in their later years. During the later years, they get time to find themselves and explore their thoughts, emotions and feelings by doing what they love, i.e., their hobbies.

Stereotypes of Aging 6: Ageing makes you unable to adapt to new situations


Another stereotype of seniors is that aging makes it difficult for seniors to adapt to new situations. Research says that seniors are not only able to adapt to new situations but they are experts at adapting. By the time they have reached this phase in life, they have already gone through several transitions and innumerable changes in life, many of them being absolutely challenging. Seniors may be slower to change their decisions, but the trait of adapting is generally retained as you grow old.

Stereotypes of Aging 7 : Ageing erases libido


Another stereotype is that elders are sexless and do not have love lives. This may cause them to have conflicted feelings or guilt about their sexuality which causes younger people to hold misconceptions about the aging of the elderly. Research says that enjoyment and sexual activity do not reduce with age. People with good physical health, a sense of wellbeing and a partner are more likely to engage in sexual relations.

Stereotypes of aging 8: Ageing makes you more religious


Religious attendance of seniors may be certainly higher than that of younger people but it is a generational phenomenon rather than an aging phenomenon. If you regularly attend your place of worship while you grew up, you’re likely to continue to do so as you age. Seniors do not seem to become more religious with time. Instead, they grew up in a time when several people went to the church/temple and that is why their age group seems to be the most religious. They love to spend time at their place of worship which helps to keep their mind relaxed, refreshed and calm.

Stereotypes of Aging 9 : More alikeness


There are several beliefs that as people age, they become more alike. But this is just the opposite. As you age, you become less like your peers as you have learnt several different things in life. As the years pass, you face different things and respond differently to several situations and innumerable changes in life.

Stereotypes of Aging 10: Dementia


Beliefs say that all the elderly suffer from dementia due to deterioration in cognitive and mental skills. This is not true. Cognitive aging need not always lead to dementia. Only 5% of those above the age of 65 are affected by dementia.

Stereotypes of Aging 11: Serene Golden years


Old age is viewed as the golden years of life referring to retirement and relaxation. But not every older adult is able to enjoy those years of life. Many seniors face grief, physical decline, loss of social stature, poverty, isolation and decreased control over their lives. They may be stressed due to reduced help from their family, relatives, friends and public agencies or community networks. Many of them may find it tough to cope up with the situation.

Stereotype 11: Serene Golden years Cognitive Reserve

Stereotypes of Aging 12: Inflexible


There are several misconceptions that seniors are resistant to change and unable to adapt to a new environment. But people of any age can be inflexible. Increased age is not directly proportional to being inflexible. Older people adjust much easier than others if they wish to. Research says that older people are open to change throughout their life and are ready to do so as and when required.

Stereotypes of Aging 13: Difficulty in learning new skills

Stereotype 12: Inflexible Cognitive Reserve
Golden Years


Difficulties in learning new skills are prevalent at any age and need not occur only during old age. It would be incorrect to say that older people have difficulty acquiring new skills. Older adults learn in a different way than younger learners but that does not mean that they do not understand or are not able to acquire the new information.

Stereotypes of Aging 14: Cranky


Young and Middle-aged people who find it difficult to get along well with others will have the same attitude when they grow old. Being cranky doesn’t depend on the age group you fall in but depends on your attitude. All seniors are not cranky.

How to slow down cognitive deterioration?

The human brain, an incredible organ has a limitless capacity to learn but age has a way of catching up with it! All we need to do is- believe IN CHANGE. Change is required in our society to break these stereotypes and misconceptions that are accompanied by aging. The latest Researches and findings are showing encouraging but inconclusive that a multi-model cognitive training program holds the key to fight age-related cognitive issues with activities that exercise the neural Pathways.

To fight age-related cognitive decline now! Book your first session with us!

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Surabhi Sahai & Swa Raj

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