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Getting Older Might Not Be So Bad

A recent poll found that aging isn't as bad in reality as it is in prospect

People think the elderly are sad, unattractive Luddites who feel lonely and financially strapped. But it turns out that people who actually ARE old don't feel nearly as bad as younger people expect. That's the reassuring news for all of us who are aging that came from results of a new poll conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion on behalf of a home health agency called Home Instead. 

The poll revealed five myths about aging:

1. Old people are sad. Actually, young people are sadder. Just 29% of Millennials (age 18-30) described themselves as "very happy," compared to 44% of people over 65.

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2. Old people hate the way they look. When people over 65 are asked about what worries them the most, 82% said it was losing their memory -- only 11% said it was losing their looks.

3. Old people are poor. At least, it's a myth that they FEEL poor (I'm a little less sanguine about this one, since unfortunately old age poverty isn't really a myth, especially for women.) Only 15% of folks over 65 say they lack the financial resources to support themselves -- even though 52% Americans believe financial concerns are a "very serious" problem for that age group.

4. Old people are stupid about technology. Even though 38% of Americans think that people over 65 can't keep up with the latest technology, just 15% of those who actually ARE over 65 agree.

5. Old people are lonely. While 37% of people thought loneliness would be a big problem in old age, only 5% of old people say it is.

The CEO of Home Instead, Roger Baumgart, was quoted as saying that his company requested the survey "to distinguish myth from reality" about what it means to be old today. "There needs to be a more realistic perception about aging as the older population rises from 800 million to 2 billion people over the next 30 years," he said in a press release.     

Good news for those of us who are creeping up on the 60s and beyond -- as well as for our Millennial children, who are about to face first their parents' old age, and then their own. 

Robin Marantz Henig is a science journalist and co-author, with her daughter Samantha Henig, of Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?

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