HOW SCIENCE HAS BUSTED THE MYTHS SURROUNDING OLD AGE
In the year 1996 Levy researched using a group of younger and older participants about what comes to their mind first when they think about old age. The immediate answer included words like ‘wise’, ‘slow’, ‘ill’, ‘infirm’, ‘forgetful’, ‘decrepit’ often ‘frail’. Undoubtedly these negative age-stereotypes still prevail as the process of ageing is commonly linked with reduced physical strength, cognitive abilities (declined memory) and disrupted sensory performance. Hence, this crucial process of ageing needs a positive approach which starts by first overcoming the myths.
It is the most common and wrong perception. Wisdom has nothing to do with old age. Opposing such a well-accepted viewpoint, the researchers in Berlin’s wisdom group found that, wisdom can characterize people of any age (Baltes et al., 1995). Throughout our adolescence and young adulthood, wisdom boosts swiftly, but perhaps it is stagnant in the period of adult years.
Physical strength and physical health are not affected by old age but lifestyle. A good diet and physical exercise has the ability to eradicate physical problems that comes with ageing.
The power of balanced diet and physical exercise can even reverse ageing in our cells – as derived from a pilot study done by Dr. Dean Ornish, faculty of University of California.
While studying successful ageing Lupian and Wan (2004) found out that older adult’s brain continues to produce new neurons if it is in regular use, there is no declination in brain cell production with ageing. According to decay theory of forgetting, the information not in use decays with passing time, so forgetting is possible in any age. Brain exercises and training is needed to save it from rusting. Another fMRI study by Cabeza and her colleagues suggest that the younger adults and older adults perform the same in the area of cognitive processing, even if the brain activity level in different region differed.
This is simply not true. In fact, the elderly are sometimes the liveliest people. Younger adults are more clinically depressed than elders; often elders experience less negative emotions than younger. While discussing conflicts, older couples demonstrate more warmth and affection towards their significant other than younger ones and fewer negative emotions (Carstensen et al., 1995). Though we find elderly people with smaller social circles that’s because time becomes vital and its better spent in meaningful relationships which add to their well-being.
The positive attitude towards ageing is the most important aspect of ageing which can eradicate these negative age-stereotypes. So many of us know our grandparents or other relatives to be more joyful and energetic than people one-third their age, is it not?
Freedom of choice, internal control and positive attitude towards life, feeling no less than sweet 16 are the demands of successful positive ageing that can stimulate life expectancy, good health, improved memory, enhanced psychological well-being and a spirit to be alive.