Category: Elder Law


Helayne came across this great article by John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D. and we just had to share!


Beliefs—Myths of Aging

Authors John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D. identify a number of stereotypes and false beliefs about older people they call “myths of aging.” Some of the myths that Rowe and Kahn write about follow.

Myth 1—To be old is to be sick

In his book Living to 100, Thomas Perls says that the older you are, the healthier you’ve been. Although there is a grain of truth to the fact that we are more likely to experience chronic illness or disability as we age, advances in healthcare and adaptive strategies now allow seniors to live independently in their homes until they reach an advanced age. Lifestyle choices such as exercise, diet, alcohol consumption and smoking all impact our health and how we age.

Myth 2—You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Seniors do experience some limits to learning, and their pace of learning is more restricted than in youth. The conditions for successful learning are different for older adults than for younger adults. Research shows that the aging brain actually retains a high degree of neuroplasticity, the ability to learn new things, even into advanced age.

Myth 3—Choose your parents wisely

This myth relates to the role of genetics. Yet Rowe and Kahn say that other factors determine how we age. Social and behavioral factors, which are within our control, play an important role in shaping health.

Myth 4—The horse is out of the barn

This myth says that once health has deteriorated or bad habits are ingrained, there is nothing that can be done. The truth is that people can recover function and decrease the risk of disease and disability with lifestyle changes. For example, the risk of heart disease begins to fall almost immediately after smoking cessation.

Myth 5—The elderly don’t pull their own weight

This myth is debunked by the amount of volunteer work seniors perform and the ways that they contribute to their children’s and grandparents’ lives by sharing their wisdom. The September 13, 2006 issue of USA Today reported that an Internet advice group called Elder Wisdom Circle offers free advice by people over 60. The seniors require two references and are screened to become part of the service. To date, they have responded to over 60,000 requests for advice.


8 John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D.. Successful Aging (1999) in Working With Seniors, Society of Senior Advisors (2005), 104 – 106.

9 Kelly Griffin, “You’re Wiser Now,” AARP Magazine, September/October 2005.


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