7 Myths About Aging & the Truth Behind Them

From learning new things to being sexually active, aging isn't what you think. We're debunking some common myths and giving you the facts!

Published December 29, 2023
Woman teaching man to knit wool with needle at home

We all have thoughts about what it means to get older, but it turns out a lot of those ideas aren't really based on fact. These are a few of the myths about aging that we're glad to debunk.

1. Myth: You Can't Learn New Things as Well When You're Older

Yup, it's the old "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" adage, and it's so not true. In fact, learning new skills is one of the best ways to keep yourself in great shape cognitively as you get older. Whether it's taking a cooking class, playing a new board game, or learning a whole new language, don't expect your ability to learn to slow down.

Fast Fact

Older people actually have better vocabularies than their younger counterparts. It's not just that they know more words (they do), but they also know how to use those words much more effectively in their communication.

2. Myth: Older Adults Should Avoid Working Out Too Much

As long as their doctor doesn't say otherwise, older adults can and should work out. In fact, it might be more important than ever. The CDC recommends the same 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two days of strength training each week for adults over age 65 that it does for adults of any age. 

Need to Know

Exercises to help improve balance as we age are important too, and can be an added goal to any regular workouts. 

3. Myth: You Need Less Sleep as You Age

If your grandma was like mine, she could go to bed really late and get up really early and still manage to function well. Turns out that's the exception to the rule, though.

Most older adults need the same amount of sleep as adults of any age, but they may not get what they need. This can lead to feeling less energetic and less joyful, so prioritizing sleep is crucial.

4. Myth: You Don't Need to Stay Busy as You Age

senior women playing a game in senior center

When you think about the stereotype of older people sitting in their rocking chairs and chilling, it seems like a hard-earned break after a lifetime of working in a career or the home. Not so fast (or slow).

Staying busy is actually associated with living longer and having a better quality of life. Whether it's through volunteering, caring for or spending time with grandkids, getting together with friends, or any other activity, keep some things on the schedule well after retirement to live your best life.

5. Myth: Older Adults Don't Care About Sex

One of the myths about aging is that older people don't have an interest in sex. While you don't see a lot of older adults hopping into bed together on TV shows or in movies, the real story is a lot more steamy. Two-thirds of adults over age 65 report being interested in sex, and over half of sexually active older adults have sex two to three times per month.

6. Myth: People Who Are Older Are Less Useful

As people age, there's no denying that their roles change. Retirement, kids getting older and leaving home, and life events can make older people feel like they're not as useful when they're past a certain age.

But the truth is, they're more useful than ever in so many ways. For example, almost a quarter of children under age five are regularly cared for by a grandparent. Add in volunteering, activism, mentoring, and more, and you've got a generation of crucially important people.

7. Myth: Everyone Gets Arthritis Eventually

Senior woman exercising in home gym

While it's definitely true that the prevalence of osteoarthritis increases as you age, getting it is far from inevitable. Only about half of people over age 65 have osteoarthritis, and there's a lot you can do to minimize its impact if you do get it. Getting regular exercise (but changing up what you do to avoid repetitive stress) is a really good way to help avoid joint pain.

Don't Listen to the Myths of Aging

The lesson here is that we really can't listen to the myths about aging when we're thinking about what it's like to get older. People do change and develop as they age (just look at how quickly kids grow up), but those don't have to be changes for the worse or even the changes we might expect. Today's older people are staying mentally and physically active. And though things might look a little different as we age, older adults are still a vibrant and crucial part of society. 

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7 Myths About Aging & the Truth Behind Them