Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Myths of Age Quiz
People old and young believe a lot of twaddle about elders. I first wrote about that during the inaugural year of this blog, 2004, when hardly anyone was reading it.
A portion of Erdman Palmore's Facts on Aging Quiz had appeared online (the page is gone now) and I used it to help readers test themselves about what age myths they might still believe.
Palmore is emeritus professor of medical sociology at Duke University, a gerontologist who is a widely respected expert on aging and ageism with several books on the those topics to his credit.
It might be useful for TGB readers to try his quiz now, a decade later. Given your often enlightened and enlightening comments on this blog, I expect you to do well:
- The majority of old people – age 65-plus – are senile.
- The five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) all tend to weaken in old age.
- The majority of old people have no interest in, nor capacity for, sexual relations.
- Lung vital capacity tends to decline with old age.
- The majority of old people feel miserable most of the time.
- Physical strength tends to decline with age.
- At least one-tenth of the aged are living in long-stay institutions such as nursing homes, mental hospital and homes for the aged.
- Aged drivers have fewer accidents per driver than those under age 65.
- Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
- More than three-fourths of the aged are healthy enough to do their normal activities without help.
- The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change.
- Older people usually take longer to learn something new.
- Depression is more frequent among the elderly than among younger people.
- Older people tend to react slower than younger people.
- In general, old people tend to be pretty much alike.
- The majority of old people say they are seldom bored.
- The majority of older people are socially isolated.
- Older workers have fewer accidents than younger workers.
- More than 20 percent of the population is now 65 and older.
- The majority of medical practitioners tend to give low priority to the aged.
- The majority of old people have incomes below the poverty line, as defined by the U.S. federal government.
- The majority of old people are working or would like to have some kind of work to do, including housework and volunteer work.
- Old people tend to become more religious as they age.
- The majority of old people say they are seldom irritated or angry.
- The health and economic status of old people will be about the same or worse in the year 2010, compared with younger people.
Answers: All odd-numbered statements are False. All even-numbered statements are True.
However, by 2050, No. 19 will be true and I suspect that with the growth in numbers of elders as the boomers age, No. 20 may no longer be true or will not be much longer. I don't know if No. 25 is still so or not. The original quiz was published in 1976 and updated twice, in 1988 and 1998.
The page I linked to in 2004 with explanations of the answers is gone now so the only place to find Palmore's commentary, I suppose, is the book which is not currently in my budget.
There is a modern myth of aging that I believe has developed too recently for the good Professor Palmore to have addressed in his quiz updates: that the best, most admired kind of elders are those who most resemble young people, those who “act young.”
So people like the first President George Bush, who jumps out of an airplane every few years (most recently on his 90th birthday last month), are held up as exemplars of good aging, a standard to which all others, it is implied, must aspire or they will be tagged with having failed old age.
Mainstream media loves to tell stories of “redefining old age” by recounting the few who run marathons or take on daredevil motorcycle stunts or, a few years ago, three who made it to the top of Mt. Everest.
That's fine for those people and I certainly don't begrudge them their effort and thrills but they are not anywhere near the average elder anymore than the young who take these risks represent the average in their age groups.
Also, I don't see these extreme sports elders as particularly brave – or perhaps I mean that their kind of bravery is least impressive.
The media ignores all the old people who day in and day out keep on trucking in the face of cancer, Parkinson's disease, varieties of disability and dementia that commonly afflict the aged along with always, in our late years, the near prospect of certain death.
These days I would add a 26th – even numbered, therefore true – statement to Professor Palmore's quiz: Being old requires more courage than other stages of life and most elders accept the challenge with grace and forbearance.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Rhymer's Lament