Myths, Fake News, and Lies
#78 What is the truth about aging?
Sometimes our thinking gets skewed because of the myths, misinformation, and lies that are floating around. When I google the topic of aging, this is a sample of what I found.
The A Senior Resource lists 8 Myths About Aging. The myths they mention are the inevitability of senility, genes determining health, and lack of interest in sex.
The National Institute on Aging lists 10 Myths About Aging. Myths include
depression and loneliness being typical in older adults.
older adults unable to learn new things.
dementia as inevitable.
older folks having to give up driving.
This 83-year-old woman is not senile or lonely. She is learning new things daily and has a sharp, clear mind. She gave up driving this year because a detached retina impacted her eyesight.
The Center for Ageing Better website makes two points. One point is that research indicates news relating to older people and aging is mainly through a negative frame. The other point is that the media’s portrayal of older folks can directly influence their attitude toward aging, how society views them, and their image of themselves.
The Good Care Group website says
Some age-related stereotypes, such as the kindly grandparent or wise matriarch, are positive. However, in Western culture especially, most stereotypes are negative.
Getting older will undoubtedly result in physiological and social changes, but Wall Street Journal (WSJ) research indicates that many of these aging stereotypes are significantly overplayed. Click here to see the difference between perceived notions about aging and real-life experience.
Older adults are more susceptible to fake news, as well. Late adulthood involves social changes, including trust, difficulty detecting lies, and less emphasis on accuracy when communicating.
They tend to be newcomers to social media and may struggle to spot sponsored content or manipulated images. In a post-truth world, interventions should consider older adults’ shifting social goals and gaps in their digital literacy.
According to The Guardian newspaper, as the largest generation in America enters retirement, it’s possible that many lack the necessary knowledge to determine the trustworthiness of online news.
Is it possible that advertisers know this fact and target older adults with false information?
Down Right Lies
Julia Hubbel, prize-winning author, journalist, international business and women’s conference speaker, says, “What isn’t funny is buying the bullshit that old people get fat, infirm, slow down, and need more rest. That we should expect to feel awful, look awful, and descend into the hell of being elderly, tantamount to cursing in our society.”
The Health and Human Rights Journal notes
Despite the importance of accurate and transparent data collection in times of crisis, the past year has provided many examples of government officials actively undermining these crucial processes.
Some governments have used selective definitions to limit what “counts” as a death due to COVID-19. In New York, deaths of nursing home residents were under-counted by as much as 50% because the official count didn’t include the deaths of residents that occurred outside the nursing homes.
In Gujarat, India, official statistics only include deaths due to viral pneumonia. These counts exclude deaths by other causes known to occur due to COVID-19, such as cardiac arrest, stroke, or organ failure.
As of 16 April 2021, the official state death toll was 78, but data from hospitals, burial sites, and crematoriums diverge from the state’s narrative. Data from seven of Gujarat’s cities showed that almost nine times as many bodies were buried or cremated following protocols established for COVID-19 than appeared in the official statistics for the entire state.
The death certificate listed complications of COVID as the cause of my husband’s death. There was no mention of previous health issues or dementia.
We’ve all heard the myths, misinformation, and lies. We may have even unknowingly helped to perpetuate them – those adages about aging that are limiting at best and can be downright damaging to our well-being after 60.
They’re deeply entrenched in our culture and difficult to dispel. However, to age well, people must try.
The article, We Need a New Philosophy of Aging says the problem is more profound than myths, misinformation, and lies about ageism. The author asks “Is there a place in our society for older adults?” and adds, “That is not a rhetorical question. When you examine the beliefs that animate our culture, you might well assume that older adults are irrelevant. And you would not be wrong.”
Aging in America: Ageism and General Attitudes toward Growing Old is well worth reading. Points the article makes are
All forms of the media glorify youth and beauty. The media teaches us from a young age that “new things” are the best.
Fashion magazines marketed to women only put young, beautiful, and thin women on their covers. Men’s magazines do the same with male models, actors, and famous athletes.
The mass media is at the center of this marginalization and devaluing of the elderly.
Common feelings toward the elderly are that they are of low status and incompetent. This theme runs through most media representations. The elderly are often depicted as weak, unattractive, and senile.
Other cultural stereotypes in the media portray the elderly as frail, feeble, financially distressed, and not contributing to society.
What do these views tell people? What do they do to their sense of self and attitudes about aging? How do they shape the popular view of the elderly and their concerns about getting old?
It’s a challenge to overcome the harmful messages that constantly bombard us – consciously and subliminally. The message that getting old is depressing and something to be delayed is not favorable.
The larger society reflects the culture, and the culture influences the behavior of society.
So What Can I Do?
While there are many possibilities, I will share a few sources that provide tips for changing society's negative attitudes toward aging.
4 Irresponsible Ways Society Treats Aging – And What to Do About It . ‘There have been big advances in life expectancy and quality of life – if you have the income, can afford good medical care, afford to eat, and afford a decent place to live. It’s a lot harder if you can’t.”
5 Strategies To Shift Your Own Negative Attitudes I like the ideas of challenging our ageist self-talk, committing to education about aging, and demanding new images of aging.
The article Change your Ageist Attitude says
Changing your ageist attitude starts when you accept that aging is a part of life, and that by changing your mindset today, you are doing your ‘future self’ justice.
Start by changing how you perceive the older people in society: instead of seeing them as “old people,” see them as a valuable part of “your community.”
Combating Ageism – How Can You Stop the Cycle? This article lists seven ways to help eliminate aging stereotypes. Methods include not buying products or services marketed by companies that reinforce stereotypes or viewing media that originates or perpetuates stereotypes.
Maybe motivational speaker, Annarose Ingara-Milch, has the right idea.
It behooves us to be aware, discerning, and think critically before tapping into the myths, fake news, and lies that abound about aging - it is in our best interest to do so.
I plan to be more aware, watch my thinking and words on the subject, and question what I read as a start.
My favorite articles this week:
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Such valuable insights here, and so practical, Janice. Thank you for your vigilance and hard work. I find chilling, and so terribly sad, the phrase "in a post-truth world". Did you ever even imagine such a thing as a post-truth world? Or the oxymoronic "alternate facts"? Or the "positive aspects of slavery"? Brain-boggling...