We live in an era of information silos, social media clickbait, fake news and "alternative facts."
So, how are we supposed to separate aging truth from aging fiction? How can a senior living in Cincinnati (and his or her family caregivers) determine what's real and what's not?
We're here to help you. Today, our Deupree House experts will walk us through several enduring myths, and tell us the facts about healthy, positive aging.
MYTH: Your genes are the only determinant of what diseases you'll develop in old age.
"I'm so worried you'll develop Alzheimer's like your grandfather did," she said.
Or, "If you take after your grandmother, you're going to be hunched over by the time you're 65."
Many people continue to believe that the diseases of old age are predetermined. But it's not true. At best, it's glossing over the cumulative effect the decisions of our lifetime have on our later health.
FACT: The primary determinants of our wellness are, and will remain, our own decisions.
Genetics play a role in superficial appearances — baldness, for example, or bags under the eyes — but they don't necessarily play a role in most common, age-related illnesses like dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis and the like.
That said, they can make a person pre-dispositioned to develop certain chronic illnesses. Heart disease, for example, has a demonstrable genetic component; so, too, do certain cancers, early-onset Alzheimer's and other diseases.
Lifelong learning and an active lifestyle have been shown to decrease the chances that a person will develop some forms of dementia. Regular exercise and a nutritious diet can prevent Type II diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
Exercise, eat right and remember to take time out for mental, spiritual and emotional self-care, and you'll increase the likelihood that your retirement will be rewarding.
MYTH: You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Remember hearing that old wives' tale that the human brain stops developing after age 3? Well, you learned to read, didn't you? Figured out potty training? Made it through grade school and high school?
Obviously, then, your brain didn't stop developing when you were a toddler.
FACT: Our brains continue to develop and reconfigure themselves throughout our lifetimes.
It's a concept called "neuroplasticity," and it's changing the way scientists and elder care providers are approaching memory care.
We know, now, that even patients with mild dementia can continue to learn. We also know that when a stroke or head trauma damages one area of a person's brain, intensive therapy and continuing effort can help the brain take advantage of its adaptive properties and "rewire" itself to compensate for the loss of function.
Old dogs can, in fact, learn new tricks. And so can older people. It's never too late.
MYTH: Old people are grouchy recluses.
One of the worst stereotypes about aging is that we're doomed to grow cynical, crotchety and mean as we age. Unfortunately, this myth is still often reinforced in popular media.
FACT: Many seniors are living happy, rewarding lives and generously give back to their communities.
Celebrity seniors aren't the only people who maintain a positive outlook in old age, though. Seniors right here in our community do, too.
Do the things you're interested in! Get out of the house and experience Cincinnati and the surrounding Tristate. Socialize with your friends and loved ones. Volunteer in the schools or with organizations or causes you care about. Don't take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to laugh.
The key to healthy aging is maintaining your positive outlook, no matter what physical or emotional obstacles old age throws at you.
Don't believe the myths. Make your own retirement reality.
Positive aging is action dependent, not circumstance dependent. We all make our own destiny, to varying degrees.
If you think old age is a barrier to happiness, you're wrong. Now's the time to Refresh Your Soul, make healthy changes and start living the life you want to live in retirement.