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Do you fear aging? Well, a lot of that might have to do with how old you are—but how your age affects your views might surprise you.

As people age, they tend to become less worried about the aging process. According to a recent Forbes Health poll, more than half (56%) of 18- to 25-year-olds fear aging, while only less than a quarter (21%) of people aged 77-plus do.

And part of this transition from being fearful to not might have a lot to do with discovering through experience that many popular misconceptions about aging are just that: misconceptions.

As we age, we start to observe that some of the stereotypes about older adults are simply unwarranted. While seniors go through mental, physical, and emotional changes, many perceptions of those ages are exaggerated, while other deleterious changes can be slowed or even prevented.

These old-age myths can be harmful, too. Medical professionals might write off valid health concerns. Prospective employers might skip over highly qualified older candidates. And elderly individuals might underestimate their own abilities in all aspects of life.

Today, I’ll go over some of the most popular lies we’re told about aging. Hopefully, this reframing can calm some of your fears about aging and help reduce the burden of ageism. 

 

Common Misconceptions About Aging 


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Take a few seconds to imagine an older adult based on some of the common stereotypes you’ve heard.

What’s in your mental picture? Someone stumbling around with a cane? Driving poorly and causing an accident? Fumbling around with a piece of technology?

Chances are that image is mostly or even completely wrong. Research shows that many stereotypes about older adults are often inaccurate. 

But you don’t have to wait until you’re older to discover the truth about aging. Let’s speed up the process by having a conversation about it. We’ll go over what’s true, and what isn’t, within some widespread aging beliefs.

Myth #1: Dementia is an Inevitable Part of Aging


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Everybody is forgetful sometimes. If you tell me you’ve never once walked into a room and forgotten why you entered it, I won’t believe you. 

However, while it’s true that a touch of forgetfulness might be more common as you age, that’s not the same thing as suffering from full-blown dementia. Dementia isn’t just about memory—it’s an issue that plagues numerous cognitive functions, making thinking and learning so challenging that it interferes with daily life.

In truth, most people who live into old age don’t develop dementia. From the National Institute on Aging:

“Dementia affects millions of people and is more common as people grow older (about one-third of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia) but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.”

If you feel as if your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, you can curb forgetfulness by learning new skills, creating lists, following a routine, and getting enough sleep. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that if a person is truly showing signs of dementia—such as confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images, or new difficulties with speaking or writing—they should speak with a medical professional.

But don’t crack a dementia joke the second someone older than you forgets something.

Related: 15 Alarming Gen X Retirement Statistics

Myth #2: Depression Is a Normal Part of Aging


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Similarly, depression is not a natural part of aging, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Older adults do have an increased risk of developing depression, however. Depression is more prominent for people who have chronic health conditions—and older individuals are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions. 

“Some estimates of major depression in older people living in the community range from less than 1% to about 5% but rise to 13.5% in those who require home healthcare and to 11.5% in older hospitalized patients,” the CDC says. Encouragingly, though, depression is treatable, and the majority of people see an improvement after starting antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, or both. 

If you or an older adult in your life are showing signs of depression—such as feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, or insomnia—seek the opinion of a medical professional. Unfortunately, this age group is often dismissed or misdiagnosed when it comes to depression, so you might need to be insistent. 

In situations where depression turns to suicidal thoughts, reach out to a nearby emergency department or call 911.

Related: 13 Dividend Kings for Royally Resilient Income

Myth #3: All Older Adults Are Bad Drivers


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We’ve all heard the stereotype that older drivers are terrible drivers. But younger drivers are worse.

A LendingTree study using 2023 data, including millions of insurance quotes, found Gen Z drivers to be the unsafest drivers. Zoomers had the highest incident rate, the most DUIs (driving under the influence), and the highest accident rate.

LendingTree found that Gen Z had 49.07 incidents (accidents, speeding and citations, DUIs) per 1,000 drivers. Millennials were second-worst at 25.13, followed by Gen X at 20.45. Sitting pretty in the two safest spots were Baby Boomers, with just 19.44 incidents per 1,000 drivers, and the Silent Generation, with a mere 19.05.

In terms of driving citations specifically, Zoomers’ rate of driving citations (23.62 per 1,000) was almost six times higher than people from the Silent Generation (4.02 per 1,000 drivers)!

Part of the explanation might come down to distracted driving. Who do you think is more likely to try to film a TikTok while driving—a member of Gen Z, or someone from the Silent Generation? 

Should some elderly drivers not be on the road? Absolutely. But we could say the same about every generation.

Related: Should You Max Out Your 401(k) Each Year or Invest Elsewhere?

Myth #4: It’s Too Late to Start a New Career


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Age discrimination seems to be prevalent in the workforce. Recent AARP research shows that 64% of adults age 50 and older believe older workers are discriminated against in today’s workforce. 

Generation, an employment nonprofit, in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), sought to learn more on this topic. In 2023, they conducted a detailed survey of 6,029 employed and unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 65, as well as 1,510 hiring managers, in eight countries, including the United States. Two of their findings:

1. “On the one hand, the stereotype against older workers is still very present: Hiring managers cling to a deeply held perception bias against job candidates over the age of 45—they believe members of this age cohort are less able to adapt to new technologies or learn new skills.”

2. “On the other hand, those very same managers also acknowledge that when they do hire people over 45, those workers perform on the job just as well as or even better than their younger counterparts.”

Those who avoid hiring older applicants could be missing out on some of the best workers. Changing careers doesn’t mean starting from scratch; many skills are transferable. And older adults often have a wealth of knowledge, life experience, and creativity.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer of the famous Little House on the Prairie books, started her professional career as a teacher. She didn’t publish her first book until she was 65 years old. Well-known painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses, commonly known as Grandma Moses, started painting when she was 78 years old. Her work was exhibited internationally into her 90s. She lived until the age of 101 and continued painting until just a few months before her death.

They did it. And other seniors can do it, too.

 

Related: SEP IRA vs. Roth IRA: What’s the Difference?

Myth #5: All Older Adults End up in Nursing Homes


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Aging in place—”the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” according to the CDC—is an important goal for most older adults. According to a U.S. News & World Report survey of adults ages 55 and older, a whopping 93% stated they want to age in place. 

Happily, many elderly adults accomplish that goal.

Data from The Washington Post shows that fewer than 10% of 85-year-old Americans live in nursing homes. Around half of people aged 85 and older live with family, such as a spouse or adult children. More than 40% live alone (though this includes people who live in independent living and assisted living facilities).

There is no shame in needing to live in a nursing home, but for most older adults, it’s unnecessary. Elderly individuals who continue to live at home may choose to invest in home renovations or medical alert systems to give themselves and their families more peace of mind.

Related: Solo 401(k) vs. SEP IRA: What’s the Difference?

Myth #6: Older Adults Need Less Sleep


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People often sleep less as they age. But just because they’re sleeping less doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so

Insomnia is common for people aged 60 and older. Adults who struggle to sleep might have pain or be using certain medicines that keep them awake. Not sleeping enough can cause anxiety, which in turn makes it even more challenging to sleep. 

The National Institute on Aging says that older adults still need between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you struggle to get enough sleep, it can help to follow a regular sleep schedule, get more exercise, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and large meals near bedtime. If these practices don’t work, talk to your doctor about your lack of sleep.

Related: How Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Myth #7: Older Adults Shouldn’t Exercise


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You might see an elderly person out jogging or in the gym and worry that their strenuous physical activity might result in injury. But in reality, it’s extremely important for older adults to continue exercising.

The CDC recommends adults aged 65 and older do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, or at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity. It also suggests they do strength-training activities a minimum of twice a week, and occasionally participating in activities that improve balance.

Exercising in older age can help increase energy, boost cognitive function, maintain a healthy weight, and improve sleep. Research from the Mayo Clinic also shows that it could reduce the number of senescent cells in a person’s body. These cells contribute to aging characteristics, such as frailty, muscle loss, and aging-associated diseases.

Older adults are a lot more durable than you think—in fact, some compete in premier endurance events. In 2023, two 81-year-olds ran in the Boston Marathon—and they aren’t even the oldest people to complete a 26.2-mile race. In December 2022, Mathea Allansmith completed the Honolulu Marathon at age 92. She wasn’t a lifelong runner, either—she didn’t start running until she was 46 years old. Another 92-year-old with great physical endurance in 2023 was Alfredo Aliaga, who became the oldest person to hike the Grand Canyon’s 24-mile rim. 

Most older adults can, and should, exercise.

Related: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?

Myth #8: Learning + Attention Abilities Are Diminished


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It’s said that children soak up information like sponges. Well, as it turns out, older adults in the habit of learning new information can soak it up pretty well too. 

In 2023, associate professors Rachel Wu and Jessica A. Church wrote in Scientific American to describe their study of adults between ages 58 and 86. The adults took three weekly classes, each lasting two hours, to learn new skills. Their findings?

“Over the course of the intervention, people significantly improved their cognitive scores for memory and attention. In a follow-up study, we discovered that the participants had not only maintained their gains but had improved further: their cognitive abilities after one year were similar to those of adults 50 years younger. In other words, giving these seniors a supportive and structured three-course routine—much like an undergraduate student’s schedule—seemed to eventually improve their memory and attention to levels similar to that of a college student.”

Learning isn’t just for the young. With diligence, seniors can match the cognitive abilities of people several decades younger. 

Related: Roth IRA for Kids: Can I Open a Custodial Roth IRA for a Child?

Myth #9: Older Adults Can’t Learn New Technologies


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The stereotype that older adults can’t learn new technologies exists for a reason. You, your friends, comedians, you name it—everyone seems to recall instances where older family members called with technology questions.

But while older generations aren’t typically the first adopters of new technology, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to use them at all. In fact, older adults are increasingly embracing technology.

A 2023 AARP survey found that 72% of adults between the ages of 50 to 59, and 61% of those aged 70+, believe they have the necessary digital skills to fully take advantage of being online. Americans age 50+ are even familiar with artificial intelligence; 85% have heard of generative AI! (They’re also hesitant concerning AI—60% say they are undecided about its impact.)

Assuming older adults can’t handle technology could also limit healthcare professionals’ abilities to serve them. As a result of the pandemic, roughly 21% of adults age 70 and older have completed telehealth visits. A little more faith and patience when teaching new technologies to seniors could make their lives substantially easier.

 

Related: Best Vanguard Funds to Hold in an HSA

Myth #10: Older Adults Don’t Use Social Media


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Think social media is for younger generations only? Think again. Older people love social media—they just flock to different platforms than their kids and grandkids.

According to a survey commissioned by ClearMatch Medicare, the average American age 65 and older spends almost 300 hours a year on social media. They spend the most time on Facebook, followed distantly by YouTube. 

While about half of the respondents stated that they use social media to kill time, even more use it to stay in touch with loved ones and reconnect with friends. 

As is true with all age groups, there are pros and cons for senior citizens using social media. Many admit to being misinformed by a source they trusted or having fallen victim to online senior scams. Still, social media can be a useful way for homebound aging adults to keep in contact with others. 

Related: The Best Fidelity ETFs for 2024 [Invest Tactically]

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If you’re looking to build a diversified, low-cost portfolio of funds, Fidelity’s got a great lineup of ETFs that you need to see.

In addition to the greatest hits offered by most fund providers (e.g., S&P 500 index fund, total market index funds, and the like), they also offer specific funds that cover very niche investment ideas you might want to explore.

 

Related: Best Target-Date Funds: Vanguard vs. Schwab vs. Fidelity

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Looking to simplify your retirement investing? Target-date funds are a great way to pick one fund that aligns with when you plan to retire and then contribute to it for life. These are some of the best funds to own for retirement if you don’t want to make any investment decisions on a regular basis.

We provide an overview of how these funds work, who they’re best for, and then compare the offerings of three leading fund providers: Vanguard, Schwab, and Fidelity.

 

Related: 9 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks for Frequent, Regular Income

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The vast majority of American dividend stocks pay regular, reliable payouts—and they do so at a more frequent clip (quarterly) than dividend stocks in most other countries (typically every six months or year).

Still, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “it’d sure be nice to collect these dividends more often,” you don’t have to look far. While they’re not terribly common, American exchanges boast dozens of monthly dividend stocks.

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Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper has been a professional writer since 2016 and has worked with WealthUp (formerly Young & the Invested) since 2019.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she was still immersed in words through previous roles as a library specialist and teacher. Her background in education helps her take complex topics and turn them into easy-to-understand text.

Hannah holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. When she isn’t writing, Hannah is usually found playing with her niece and nephew, traveling, or brewing more coffee.