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Misconceptions and Misbeliefs are too many among the senior citizens in our country.

We start forming opinions of ageing right from our childhood when we see changes in our parents and grandparents over a period of time. Friends, relatives and books add to our brains knowledge-bank certain facts and myths about this physiological process. Some beautiful young girls begin to fear old age seeing wrinkles and white hair. Others people are afraid of getting dementia when they grow older. Those who are working are made aware of the retirement age and they have an embedded memory of becoming old at that age. This article is about dispelling fears, clearing the air of mystery and myths surrounding old age.

To begin with, ageing is an extremely slow process that affects the body’s organs and mind. Greying hair, wrinkling of skin are common but some people may have reduced hearing capacity or onset of cataract at different ages. There is no fixed age for a person to ‘feel’ old or to ‘behave’ old. The saying, ‘One is as old as one feels’ holds good. Here, there is no discussion on the diseases which people develop due to their lifestyles and behaviour. 

Misconceptions and Misbeliefs
Regular driving evaluation could be helpful P.C.

Common Misconceptions and Misbeliefs Which Need to be Debunked.       

  • DRIVING. One can keep driving at any age. But yes, the hearing and sight should be tested periodically.    
  • LEARNING NEW THINGS. There is no age bar for learning. If people in their nineties have mastered smartphones, they can learn anything. A new language, digital photography, gardening or quilting. In the present era, not being able to manage one’s finances on the smartphone, one can face a lot of trouble, especially during Lockdowns.  
  • WEIGHT GAIN. Gaining weight is not a part of ageing. If one is becoming overweight, one either needs to cut down on calories intake or increase exercise or both. 
  • EXERCISE. There is absolutely no need to stop exercising at any age unless prohibited by a doctor for a particular disease. Exercising could be fun if it is dancing. It may be a sport or in a gym or just a good old brisk walk. It may even be yoga but if done after adequate warming up. Fauja Singh and Man Kaur took up running in their eighties.
When life gives you an encore - The Hindu
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  • DEMENTIA. Dementia develops slowly, in some people in their old age. It is not a part of natural ageing. Forgetting is natural but it can occur at any age. Hence the need to develop habits while one becomes an adult. These are, maintaining a planner or a diary for past and future events, earmarking a place for keys, glasses, cellphones, making and generally sticking to a routine. Afternoon rest is considered good for the brain to be fresh in the late evening. Having a social circle for interaction reduces the risk of depression and dementia, both. 
  • SLEEP. Another common misconception is that sleep is reduced in old age. This is absolutely false. Eight hours of sleep at night is absolutely healthy. One may, of course, be awakened by the call of nature but it is best to go back and sleep. Short sleep may be due to various medical conditions and is worth examination by a doctor.   
  • ADDICTIONS. People feel that they will not have any benefit if they leave smoking or excessive liquor intake in old age. That is a misconception. The body organs start regeneration when we give up such addictions, whatever the age. One’s lungs will improve and they will be able to exert without becoming breathless within a few months after leaving tobacco. Even the liver has the capacity to regenerate. Persons who give up addictions could live longer and healthier lives.
  • OSTEOPOROSIS AND WEAK BONES. Menopause in ladies is responsible for hormonal changes. The metabolism of calcium and vitamin D is quite complex. Most people blame Osteoporosis in ladies as a normal part of ageing. Fractures in senior-aged men are also ascribed to Osteoporosis leading to weaker bones. This is more due to lack of exercise and improper diet rather than blaming it on ageing. Master’s sports champions have demonstrated that weight training can be done at any age. Weight training makes bones stronger with a nutritious diet and adequate sunlight exposure. Those who have never done any weight training earlier, need to take the advice of experts, go extremely slowly with very lightweights in the beginning. Stronger bones and exercise ensures that the person will have lesser fractures and will not be bedridden and dependent on others.
  • BUILDING NEW RELATIONSHIPS. Can we not make new friends when we grow old? Can a widow or widower remarry? Having good friends in old age leads to better mental health. Many a couple, after settling in new localities and have new neighbours. It is very much possible to make good relationships. In today’s world, it is not just youngsters but people of all ages who can be active on social media.

Let us not allow the old misconceptions and misbeliefs restrict senior citizens lead their lives to their fullest potential.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

By Major General Krishan Chauhan (AMC)

Maj Gen Krishan Chauhan (Retd) Army Medical Corps., is the alumni of Sainik School Kapurthala, IG Medical College Shimla and AFMC Pune. Part of PG Community Medicine. He is a fellow of the Indian Public Health Association. He was part of core groups in establishing ECHS and ACMS Delhi. He was Addl DGMS Army prior retirement.