Dispelling myths about aging

 

Dr. Michael Ego, University of Connecticut Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, came to the Darien Library on Dec. 6 to speak about misconceptions in aging. — Sandra Diamond Fox photo

True or false: Personality changes with age.

The answer is false, according to Dr. Michael Ego, University of Connecticut Professor of Human Development & Family Studies.

Personality remains consistent in people throughout life, according to research.

Ego spoke about the many misconceptions society has on aging in his talk at the Darien Library on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The talk was attended by more than 100 people including including Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, state Sen. Carlo Leone, state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, and state Rep. Terrie Wood.

The event was hosted by At Home In Darien, a nonprofit organization in town that provides free services and education for people age 60 and older.

Ageism is a form of prejudice and discrimination based upon someone’s age, Ego said.

There is a lot of misinformation in society, according to Ego,  “about what aging means, as well as all the physiological, social, cultural, and other aspects of aging.”

He distributed a Facts on Aging quiz to each member of the audience that contained 100 true-false statements.

The information in the quiz was based upon research at the University of Chicago and the University of Missouri.

After audience members took the quiz, Ego then distributed an answer booklet.

Statements on the quiz include:

As adults grow older, reaction time increases.

Answer: True. When processing ordinary stimuli, adults do show large increases in response time with increasing age.

The majority of people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. Of those with Alzheimer’s disease, the vast majority are age 75 and older.

Answer: False.

Older persons take longer to recover from physical and psychological stress.

Answer: True. It may take an older adult longer to adjust to a major change or recover from prolonged and intense physical and emotional stress.

While reviewing the answers to the quiz, some people said they were very surprised at the some of the answers, which differed from the ones they chose.

Ego said while a lot of progress has been made in society with regard to ageism, “we still have a ways to go. There is a lot of myths related to this topic.”

He added that there is a misunderstanding between millenials, boomers and older Americans about ageing.

He said he hopes people will “bridge the intergenerational gap” between different age groups about what aging means.

“How do you bridge that gap?’ he asked

The answer lies in education, he said.

“You bridge it by having a common base, and a common base should be facts,” Ego said. “And how do you come to these facts? Facts are based upon research that has been done by social scientists on various topics.”

Communication is also important in understanding aging, according to Ego.

Getting a “clear” understanding of aging involves “developing good communication with all age groups so that they will know what the truth is, and what happens with the aging process,” he said.

sfox@darientimes.com