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Great Myths of Aging




Great Myths of Aging

Joan T. Erber, Lenore T. Szuchman

ISBN: 978-1-118-52147-2 October 2014 Wiley-Blackwell 184 Pages

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Great Myths of Aging looks at the generalizations and stereotypes associated with older people and, with a blend of humor and cutting-edge research, dispels those common myths.


  • Reader-friendly structure breaks myths down into categories such as Body, Mind, and Living Contexts; and looks at myths from “Older people lose interest in sex” to “Older people are stingy”
  • Explains the origins of myths and misconceptions about aging
  • Looks at the unfortunate consequences of anti-aging stereotypes for both the reader and older adults in society
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 The Body 6

“Speak up! I can’t hear you!” 6

#1 It is best to speak to an older person as you would to a small child – loudly, slowly, and with exaggerated emphasis 7

#2 Hearing aids are beneficial for older adults in just about any situation, but many are just too stubborn to use them 9

You can’t be too careful (or … falling down and crashing cars) 12

#3 Older people worry too much about falling 13

#4 Older people get into more car accidents than younger people 15

Now that you don’t have sex anymore… 20

#5 Older people lose interest in sex 20

#6 Older women do not care about their looks 25

#7 Older people need to wear diapers, and how sexy is that? 29

#8 It’s always best for older adults to be married rather than single 32

2 The Mind 37

“I’m just having a senior moment” 37

#9 Brain power declines with age 38

#10 Older adults can’t or won’t learn new things – like technology. They would rather get a stupid phone than a smart one 42

“Did I tell you this already?” 46

#11 As people grow older, they get forgetful, and this is always a sign of dementia 46

#12 Alzheimer’s disease, dementia – they’re one and the same 50

#13 There’s no help for Alzheimer’s, so don’t waste time or money on diagnosis of memory problems 52

Older but wiser 55

#14 Wisdom comes with age, so older adults are wise 56

#15 Older adults are suckers and are easy prey for scam artists 59

#16 Older people are extra cautious when they have to make decisions 63

3 The Self 66

Older people are a disagreeable bunch 66

#17 Older people are hypochondriacs 67

#18 Older people are stingy 71

#19 Older people are grouchy 75

“Give me my lunch. Now go away.” 78

#20 Older adults prefer to be taken care of – they don’t want a lot of responsibilities 78

#21 Older people are introverted and prefer to spend time alone 81

Why try to improve your life if the future is so brief? 85

#22 Older adults have given up any hopes and dreams 85

#23 Older people are set in their ways 87

#24 Growing old is depressing; no wonder older people are more depressed than younger people 90

#25 Older adults do not benefit significantly from therapy 92

4 Living Contexts 98

Growing old can only mean there is more opportunity to enjoy the bliss of family relationships 98

#26 Older adults would choose living with kids and grandkids rather than living alone 99

#27 Older adults want to spend all their time with grandkids and they never have favorites 102

#28 Sibling relationships are stable throughout life 105

Retirement is for sissies 108

#29 Older workers are inferior to younger workers 109

#30 Older adults hardly ever have trouble getting work 111

#31 Retirement is depressing, so older adults only retire when they are forced to do so 113

#32 Retired older adults are privileged financially 117

#33 After they retire, older folks want to move to where it’s warm 122

5 Endings and Loss 124

All the good ones are either gay, married, or dead 124

#34 If older widows date, it’s to find a new husband 125

And then you die… 127

#35 A majority of older adults end up in nursing homes and stay there till they die 128

#36 Suicide is more common among adolescents and young adults than it is among older adults 131

#37 Older people have the greatest fear of death of any age group – they are the closest to it, so they should know 135

References 140

Index 161

“What does the future hold for us as we age? Most of us have difficulty thinking of ourselves as aging, no matter how old we are. In this lively, engaging book, Great Myths of Aging, Erber and Szuchman remind us that we are aging every minute of every day. Almost all of us hold ageist stereotypes, even as we know that we will become a part of this often stigmatized group. Psychologists and laypeople alike are familiar with the commonly held ageist beliefs, those that involve the asexual, grouchy old man or woman living in a nursing home waiting for death. Erber and Szuchman not only identify and “bust” these more common myths, but cleverly identify at least 35 additional fallacies, replacing them with authoritative information.” PsycCritiques, June 2015