Top 20 stereotypes of older people

How do you feel about stereotypes? Damaging? Helpful?

Stereotypes are defined as oversimplified, exaggerated beliefs about a group or category of people. Stereotypes may be positive or negative, but they are nearly always distortions of fact.

For example, we generalise when we say that the English are snobbish and reserved, the Irish are witty and pugnacious, intelligent children have high foreheads, and redheads are quick-tempered. These generalisations are erroneous because they do not take into account the many variations within a group and because they indiscriminately attribute the same characteristics to all the members.

Many stereotypes or “myth-conceptions” surround older people and the aging process.

The following list includes some of the more common myths that we encounter every day:

  1. Most older people live in institutions
  2.  Retirement is less difficult for women than it is for men
  3.  Alzheimer’s disease is to be expected with old age
  4.  Older workers are less productive than younger workers
  5.  Sickness and disability come with old age
  6.  Older people cannot learn
  7.  Older people are more fearful of death than are younger people
  8. Old people are sweet and kind and at peace with the world
  9. Old people are weak and helpless
  10. Old people have no interest in or capacity for sexual activity.
  11. Old people are boring and forgetful
  12. Old people are unproductive
  13. Old people are grouchy and cantankerous
  14. Old women are a burden on everyone
  15. Old age begins at 60
  16. Old people do not have feelings
  17. Old people are past being consulted about anything – even their own lives. 
  18. The majority of older people are set in their ways, unable to change
  19. The majority of older people view themselves as being in poor health
  20. The majority of older people are lonely and are isolated from their families

How do you feel about these?

Do you find that you re enforced these stereotypes or perhaps give way to other peoples perception as it is easier.

We obviously cannot fight all perceptions, that would be exhausting! But can we, simply through our actions, ensure that we educate all we come into contact with. For example, although we can only control certain aspects of our health we can make sure that our attitude towards it is more positive.

Sharing a smile, a laugh and an interesting story will not only make anyone we are in contact with feel better but also share the wonderful person we are inside.

Over time I hope to work on breaking down these stereotypes in my own environment, what can you do?

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Depression – What is it and how does it work

Admittedly everyone feels down sometimes, but depression is more than feeling unhappy.

Sometimes all we need to do when we are feeling down is get ourselves up and go for a walk ( exercise raises the endorphin levels) or call a friend to meet for coffee. But if these simple actions do not make you feel any better and you are feeling irritable, tired unable to sleep, unable to eat and unable to make decisions, you may be depressed.

You may also feel dissatisfied, hopeless, helpless and you may want to cry all the time. And as much as you try, you can’t make yourself feel better.

Although everyone can have these feelings from time to time, if you have depression, they accumulate and do not go away. They can last for weeks or months. Some people with depression have symptoms that are not typical. You may be anxious or irritable possibly suddenly finding your memory or concentration is not what it was.

Understandably you can have depression at the same time as other illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer a heart attack or a stroke.

Unfortunately many people with depression don’t ask for help and about half of all depression is not properly treated.

Depression is not simply a state of mind or something you can will away with some effort. With depression, the most important thing is to recognise that you may have it and to see someone qualified to give you the right diagnosis and treatment. It is also important to remember that the hopelessness you may feel is a symptom of your depression, and it doesn’t mean that there really is no hope. It may help to confide in someone you trust, and to keep busy and meet up with people rather than stay at home on your own. Do not isolate yourself as this will only compound the overwhelming feelings.

So what happens in our bodies? No one knows for certain what causes depression. Doctors and researchers think that triggers can often play a role in the development of depression. For example, it can be set off by the death of a friend or partner even a beloved pet.

Depression has also been linked to changes in how the brain works. Thinking about this, it does makes sense, given that our emotions, thoughts, sleep, appetite and behaviour are regulated by our brain.

We know that the brain sends signals from nerve to nerve using neurotransmitters. But the levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain called noradrenaline and serotonin are abnormal if you have depression, and they do not work properly

Some studies have found that family history can to play a part in depression., suggesting that it can be caused by genes.  But likewise there are studies proving that there is no correlation between family history of depression and its occurrence.

If you are in any way concerned that you may be depressed It is best to make an appointment with your local GP and have a good talk about how you are feeling as well as how your life is being affected.  Your GP will be able to direct you to the right resources to help you, sometimes you will need some medication to help you through this as well as dealing with any lifestyle pressures you are experiencing. The most important decision is to ask for help, you are not alone!

Please note: This is in no way medical advice. Always consult a medical professional.

Are we safe when we are most at risk?

I was waiting for a bus the other day when an elderly woman approached me and asked when the next bus was due – when I asked her which one she wanted and where she wanted to go she merely repeated the question as if I had not spoken.  Clearly she was confused and unaware of her surroundings – although on appearance she seemed a perfectly normal well-dressed person – eventually she wandered off to another bus stop where presumably she repeated her bus query.

What can be done about this sort of situation? Probably nothing – sad to say – there are just too many “seniors” of both sexes around with no immediate family to look after them or give them a home.  So they get through their days as best they can – relying in many cases on strangers to help them if they can.  So from that point of view there is no ready solution.  But one aspect – I believe – is possible to address and that is the disorientation as experienced by the elderly lady I encountered.

What about a bracelet or a necklace which contains an audio – similar to that of a car GPS system.  Giving the person at the touch of button relevant information such as the correct bus number to get them home and also their address.  So if they get confused they just press the button and get their details.  I realise that there could be a risk of this being used by people with bad intentions – I think the gain outweighs the risk.