What are the Mental Effects of Aging?
Have you ever asked yourself, "What are the mental effects of aging?" Doctors today know more about the mental effects of aging than ever before. Senior adults will make up a larger part of the population in the coming years, as the human life span increases. Many people still accept yesterday’s outdated ideas about aging and mental health. To better understand the mental effects of aging, let's take a look at four common myths about mental health and the elderly.
It is a myth that memory loss and senility are a normal part of aging. For most people, aging does not affect short-term or remote memories. However, it can affect recent memory. From his twenties, a person loses brain cells a few at a time. His body also starts to produce fewer of the chemicals his brain cells need to function. These gradual changes can affect recent memory (forgetting a name or where he set his keys) in the senior years.
It is a myth that everyone in old age gets Alzheimer’s disease. Although Alzheimer’s disease is often called "old-timer’s disease," not all "old-timers" will get the disease. In truth, about five percent of people over 65—and roughly twenty percent of those over 80—suffer from dementia. Many forms of dementia are incurable and untreatable. However, doctors believe that some of the cognitive changes that occur with aging, like memory loss, can improve with mental exercises and behavior techniques.
It is a myth that people become mentally weaker as they age. Actually, people become mentally stronger through the years, due to familiarity and experience. For instance, death becomes more of a reality for seniors. They probably have thought about their own deaths or have lost family members and friends. Various life experiences, coping mechanisms, and problem-solving skills all serve to strengthen a person's mental health.
It is a myth that old age means the loss of sexuality. Testosterone levels decline very slowly in men (one percent a year, beginning at age 30). And estrogen levels drop in women after menopause. But drops in hormone levels do not reduce a person’s ability to derive sexual pleasure. The common misconceptions about sex and aging often cause anxiety about these changes. It’s the anxiety that causes sexual problems.