The Common Negative Stereotypes of Elderly

Growing up isn't easy. There are a lot of physical, psychological and emotional changes happening to the body. There are also more changes in the social nature associated with ageing. Myths and stereotypes about old age are the product of how others see this process from the outside, and in many cases, they offer a false vision of what getting older represents. This review will discuss all the negative stereotypes of elderly people and the common myths that aren't true.

What are Stereotypes About Old Age Based On?

To an extent, everyone has some concern about growing older. The stage of old age is a stage full of changes that come at a time in life when many thought they had learned everything. But the truth is that you never stop learning, and there's always something new to discover and learn. A common question that most people have about old age is, "what do we have left to do when we reach old age?" if you meditate on this subject for a few minutes, you'll realise that the possibilities are inexhaustible and there is still so much you can do. Once you've understood this, it'll be easier to differentiate between myths and facts of aging.

However, erroneous perceptions of old age in society have been imposed on the concept of this stage of life. The consolidation of some prejudices in society prevents older people from developing a more positive attitude toward the moment they find themselves and their real capacities.

Myths of Old Age that Have Nothing to do with Truth

Among the many examples of myths about ageing, here are the most common ones:

1. The monotony of a routine life without stimuli is a common mistake to think that older people live immersed in boring and repetitive habits that no longer add anything new to existence. But if it is true that this stimulus does not exist, then they will have to be helped to find it with trips, events, courses, competitions and so on. In short, there are no limits for those who remain active.

2. The inability to adapt to changes: a common belief is that older people are more inflexible and stubborn. But, although old age facts show that the elderly feel comfortable in their routines and way of thinking, there is always room for change. The older adult also can adapt, although it is necessary to understand that he has a different rhythm.

3. Old age is synonymous with unproductiveness: many older people feel lost when they retire because "they have nothing to do". However, this is not only the time to stay active but to do what we love. Older people still have a lot to contribute, so your role is to help them find their space and motivation.

4. Sexuality is reserved for youth: it is a taboo subject around which many elderly stereotypes revolve around. But sexuality, desire and pleasure also exist at advanced ages because there are no biological changes that affect a person as they grow old. The promotion of healthy sexual life in old age and the knowledge of these needs improve health in general.

5. Older people live grumpy, depressed or sick: this is undoubtedly the most widespread stereotype of old age and one of the most hurtful. From this perspective, it will be impossible to change the rest of the concepts about adulthood. These perceptions encourage isolation, overprotection and a lack of interest in promoting positive moods. They are at the foundation of ageism and tend to homogenise all people of a certain age group.

Apart from these, there are many myths and stereotypes related to dementia. Most people think that old age is associated with dementia and that everyone will get it at some point. However, that's not true because once the brain is kept active, you won't have to deal with dementia regardless the age.

Change Prejudices in Society for Positive Stereotypes of Old Age

The best way to counteract ageism, myths, and stereotypes about old age is to promote a change of perspective by creating awareness on facts about aging. It is not an easy task: ageism is not only a problem that affects the older adult but also their entire environment. On the other hand, the myths and stereotypes about old age extend to different areas: stereotypes about health, emotional and cognitive development, physical abilities or lifestyle.

This is one of the reasons why this change in perspective must also be approached from a multidisciplinary approach. These are some examples of solutions to stereotypical old people things that could be applied to everyday life:

1. Promote intergenerational contact to exchange knowledge and promote mutual understanding.

2. Know and promote the particular abilities of each older person, attending to their interests and expectations.

3. Dissociate old age from illness, avoiding paternalistic and overprotective attitudes.

4. Promote active ageing with employment programs that stimulate creativity, knowledge and interest in continuing to learn.

At Cuidum, we are determined to banish all these myths about old age by promoting activity and autonomy in the elderly. But this is a task that concerns home caregivers, their families, and society. We can all contribute to this transformation to eradicate stereotypes that offer a negative view of the stage of old age. Do you want to join the change?

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