Growing older has a lot going for it. But if you believed everything you heard about aging, you could be excused for being anxious. We carry a lot of misguided expectations about growing older. Read on to learn about these and other common myths of aging.
Have you been preparing your kids for the grumpy curmudgeon you’ll become in your later years? Have you already planned how you’ll deal with your ever-growing nose? We carry a lot of misguided expectations about growing older. Read on to learn about these and other common myths of aging.
Myth #1: People get grumpy as they get older.
Those grumpy old men immortalized so well by Hollywood actors Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are the exception rather than the rule. A person’s personality stays the same throughout life, except when changes result from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, stroke, or other serious illness. So, if you have a grumpy old man living next door, chances are he was also a grumpy young man.
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Myth #2: Something gets bigger as we age. Is it our nose, our ears, or our chin?
Most people think it’s the nose. Although some people’s noses seem to get bigger as they age, it’s more likely that the tissues around the nose are weakening, causing the nose to droop. Remember the song “Do your ears hang low?” It’s actually true: as we get older, the cartilage in our ears continues to grow, which may make our ears just a little longer.
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Myth #3: Older people have a harder time hearing, especially kids’ or women’s voices.
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) occurs gradually as we grow older, and it affects 78 percent of Canadians between 60 and 79. The first sounds we begin to have trouble with as we age are the higher-pitched ones—hence kids’ and women’s voices. Hearing loss, although it’s often related to aging, can also be a result of a lifetime of loud noises (such as listening to the Beastie Boys on your boombox).
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Myth #4: We lose interest in sex as we age.
While the physical changes brought on by aging are undeniable—decreased libido, mobility issues, and less-than-reliable machinery—there’s no reason to assume that we’ll stop experiencing feelings of desire and wish to act upon them. And just in case you’re not convinced, not only is it fun, but having sex as we age can also make us much healthier—and happier.
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Myth #5: We’ll have more heartburn as we get older.
Sad, but true. And the name’s a misnomer: heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart. Most people feel the “burn” in the chest area, hence the common term. In reality, the burning pain is brought on by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, something that happens more frequently as we age. There are a lot of things we can do to help ward off the burn, such as eating smaller meals, eating slowly, and avoiding late-night snacking—especially those habanero chili chips.
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Myth #6: Other people seem to get taller as we age.
The truth is that, while we might like to think others are getting taller, it’s actually us losing height as we get older. This happens because the cartilage between our joints begins to wear out, which eventually pushes our spine together. Our muscles also tend to get weaker, while bones may also thin, all of which can contribute to a loss in height. Between the ages of 30 and 70, men can lose as much as an inch (2.5 cm) of height, while women can lose up to 2 inches (5 cm).
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Myth #7: Older people don’t need as much sleep.
You may see your older neighbour out walking his dog at 5 am each day, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t sleeping just as much as you. We need the same amount of shut-eye all through our adult lives. But sometimes older people take longer to fall asleep, spend more time in lighter stages of sleep, or wake up more often in the night. Possible causes include health issues, medications, or simply the body’s internal clock, which controls when we sleep and wake, causing us to go to sleep and get up extra early.
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