Young people’s fears and misconceptions of aging revealed

Viva Fifty is all about embracing our age, but the truth is that fear of aging exists no matter what. As in all things, however, knowledge is power  — and challenging the common misconceptions about aging is one way to deal with that fear.

Young people´s fears and perceptions of aging decoded
Photo: Pexels

Senior living referral service A Place For Mom surveyed 2,000 young people aged 16-34 to identify common beliefs about the aging process. Then, existing studies were used to fact-check these beliefs. The results will surprise you, and maybe address some of your own concerns about getting older.

For starters, how exactly is “old” defined? The survey showed that millennial men consider the age of 56 to be “old,” and millennial women picked 61, making 59 the average millennial definition of “old.”

Some misconceptions about older people have to do with self-perception. Millennials think that seniors don’t feel good about their physical appearance, when in fact studies show that satisfaction with appearance is at its peak in our 70s and 80s!

Other beliefs have to do with seniors’ abilities and skills. For example, 72% of the millennials interviewed for the survey think that as one gets older, their driving skills decline. Over half (55%) of millennials think that tech skills also fall by the wayside as people age. Wrong on both counts! Research shows that drivers over 65 make up only 19% of crash victims (whereas drivers between 16 and 34 make up twice that). As for tech skills, senior Americans, at 67%, overwhelmingly use the internet, and a little over half have broadband at home. (They’re busy, too; 70% of older people who use Facebook do so daily.)

Some perceptions of older people are based on reality. Millennials think that as we get older, we get lonelier. We do tend to spend more time alone as we get older, but guess which generation feels the loneliest? Generation Z! Yup, the youngest generation; go figure. And once again, knowledge is power. Acknowledging that we may be losing friends in midlife is a great starting off point for making new friends and embarking on new adventures. Because, contrary to what millennials believe (that seniors lose their sense of adventure and desire to travel), adults over 50 travel just as much as Gen X, with an emphasis on pleasure (50+ adults take the most leisure trips!)

Challenging millennials’ misconceptions about aging is a great way to change their perceptions about older adults. To that end, it’s another reason why you should spend time with younger people. But challenging these beliefs — which frequently cast the over-fifty age group as being limited — is also a way to remind yourself about how many options you have as someone who is over fifty. Utilizing tips for aging healthfully is a must so that you can live life to the fullest. And consider these elements of being older that, according to the survey by A Place For Mom, have millennials excited about getting older: spending more time with loved ones, and pleasurable activities such as traveling or exploring a new hobby. They’re looking forward to these things in the future, but for you, the future is now. So put preconceived notions aside, and enjoy it to the fullest!

Some misconceptions about older people have to do with self-perception. We actually gain self-confidence as we age and continue to acquire new skills. #genz #genX #boomers #aging #midlife

Luisa Colón

Luisa Colón is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the New York Times, New York Magazine, Glamour, Family Circle, Latina, BuzzFeed, and many more.