Previously, we’ve discussed Myths, Fake News, Lies, and Scams about aging. However, we know that misinformation and trickery abound in every area of life, from COVID to politics - no, I’m not going there.
One myth is that older adults can’t learn new things. The title of an old song, It Ain’t Necessarily So, comes to mind. Older adults can still learn new things, create new memories, and improve their performance in various skills. However, if you believe the myth, you may miss many opportunities and pleasures.
The truth is that while aging does come with changes in thinking, many of those changes are positive, such as having more knowledge and insight from a lifetime of experiences. Trying and learning new skills can and do improve cognitive abilities.
For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had improved memory. Seeking new social connections with others and engaging in social activities, such as a yoga class or book club, keep your brain active and may boost your cognitive health.
I am 83 years old and am learning new things daily as I read articles to use in the newsletter, teach myself Spanish, and master the skills of living alone.
The good news - there are tools to help sort fact from the fiction. Tools that we need in our “aging well toolbox.” Abilities that help solve problems and build wellness strategies; in other words, critical thinking skills.
We know that
The ability to think critically matures and begins to fail later than a person’s general intelligence, peaking in the late teens and early twenties and then immediately declining.
Scientists from Tübingen University in Germany believe the human brain works slower in old age as it has to process a lifetime of stored-up information to recall simple facts.
Cognitive aging is the brain’s version of your body parts working less efficiently due to age rather than disease or severe damage. Like many other age-associated changes in the body, this loss of efficiency is gradual. It tends to happen differently for every person, partly due to genetics, lifestyle, or environmental factors.
These last two ideas make sense to me. Older brains do have more stored information, experiences, and memories to sort through than younger brains. A person’s physical body does age, so why doesn’t it stand to reason that the brain would?
What do you think?
Scammers target seniors who they think have more wealth or are less likely to report the crime. They often take advantage of seniors' desire for quality living after retirement and caring for family members.
Researchers who study elder abuse have long believed that older adults are more likely to fall victim to monetary scams and exploitation when they face loneliness or relationship problems.
So, given the wealth of misinformation now available and knowing that older adults may be more vulnerable to tricksters and fraud, what can they do to make more informed choices?
Because as the NPR website says
Stopping the increase of fake news isn't just the responsibility of the platforms used to spread it. Those who consume information also need to determine if what they read is accurate.
The idea is that people should have a fundamental sense of media literacy. And based on a study recently released by Stanford University researchers, many people don't.
Let’s get started with some basic ideas.
With the enormous amount of information online, it can be challenging to decipher what is true or not. Once you know the tricks for identifying reliable information, you can determine if what you’re reading is valid.
Reliable information must come from dependable sources. According to UGA Libraries, widely credible sources include:
Scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and books
Trade or professional articles or books
Magazine articles, books, and newspaper articles from well-established companies
Other sources like websites, newsletters, and blog posts, which may be what we mostly read, can be reliable but require further evaluation.
The article How to Find Reliable Information on the Internet offers suggestions, as does the article Four Ways to Differentiate a Good Source From a Bad One. It suggests that readers:
Check the domain name.
Look at the three letters at the end of the site’s domain name, such as “edu” (educational), “gov” (government), “org” (nonprofit), and “com” (commercial). Generally, .edu and .gov websites are credible but beware of sites that use these suffixes to mislead.
Nonprofit websites may also contain reliable information, but consider the organization’s purpose to determine if it could be biased.
Commercial websites, such as those of reputable news organizations, can also be good sources, but look for signs of accuracy.
Check online to see who owns a domain name and whether the owner’s IP address is in the U.S. or abroad.
Take a close look at the source.
Does the article have authors listed? Do they cite or link to authoritative sources, or are they writing their own opinions without backing these up with facts?
Check the date of the article. It may not matter if the source is older or not updated, but when information rapidly changes, relevancy is essential.
Search for additional information to back up what you’ve read.
Further research may be required if you find credible sites that contradict your source.
Use certain sources only to jump-start additional research.
Wikipedia offers a large volume of information, but many different users create it in a collaborative effort, so reliability varies widely. In some cases, users deliberately place incorrect information on the site; in others, well-meaning users unintentionally introduce inaccuracies.
Much like Wikipedia, sources such as individuals’ blogs, online forums, and chat rooms can be used to initiate further research but shouldn’t be relied upon as sources of reliable information.
I use various sources for the newsletters. Blue lettering indicates a link to the source material. I use reliable sources for facts and less credible sources for ideas to consider. You will know the origin of the information and can decide for yourself.
Fact-checking is a helpful tool that verifies factual information to promote reporting correctness. In the article Curious Assault on Fact-Finding, the author discusses misinformation that flourishes regarding fact-checking and suggests doing your research.
The words of another author seem sensible.
You decide but base your decision on critical thinking after reading or researching the pros and cons, the safety and efficacy, and not deciding until you read many varying opinions.
But do not let the media sway you as they rarely show you the many different and opposing sides of an issue. Instead, they try to sway your opinion to whoever is paying them.
Do your homework.
I act on what I believe to be true and that impacts my ability to age well. So, I am adopting these ideas to further hone my critical thinking skills and more judiciously sort fact from fiction.
Articles I enjoyed this week are:
Techno-Challenged. I can certainly relate.
The True Friend. That’s my goal!
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I loved this information: Scientists from Tübingen University in Germany believe the human brain works slower in old age as it has to process a lifetime of stored-up information to recall simple facts. This is so true. I am constantly searching through all the filing cabinets in my mind to access the right folder with the memory or information that I need. So many filing cabinets.... Thanks for a helpful read.
One more thing, Janice. I never have been able to figure out how to "share" articles on substack. I click on SHARE, and get a little box that says SHARE, but there is no place to type in an email. Any way, I wanted you to know I just sent this wonderful article off to 9 women by pasting in your link. (ps any idea what I am doing wrong with the substack sharing system?)