L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Certified Gerontologist

Myth: Anti-Aging is Possible

October 19, 2019

Let me lay my cards right on the table. I hate the term “anti-aging.” Why? First because there is no such thing, just like there are no such things as partial forgiveness or being a little pregnant. Secondly, this term goes to the heart of our cultural problem of ageism—that stereotype of negative attitudes toward older folks. Dr. Jill Chonody, author of Social Work Practices with Older Adults, writes, “Antiaging norms have become a regular part of American culture and as a result they are readily expressed through and reinforced by an ‘anti-aging movement’ which dictates that physical signs of aging should be hidden by ‘anti-aging products’ to cover age-related ‘flaws.’ ” Dr. Chondoy cites stats that show more than a 100% increase in the number of surgical and non-surgical procedures (from $80m to $114m), from 1997-2014. When we add in the last four years, that figure soars to over $120m. She goes on to say, “The marketing of these products goes without much notice much like greeting cards. No magazine or products are labeled anti-black or anti-woman, but anti-aging is a very common label for commercial products, including books. Why do we spend money on these products, why would we have unnecessary surgery to hide the physical signs of aging? Social messages repeatedly tell us that aging is unattractive and should be avoided at all costs and we believe it without question.”

So, as we all know, there is only one true way to avoid aging, and that isn’t really a great alternative!  😉

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Myth: Aging Makes You Unproductive

September 6, 2019

The findings from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks this myth wide open. It seems that as the kiddos leave the nest, so do the parents. According to the latest data, a whopping 29% of the population, the highest number of folks who volunteer, begin giving back around age forty-five. This number dips a little to 24% for seniors sixty-five and over. People in the last half of their lives supply an immeasurable number of hours in both helping with child-rearing and volunteering at worthy organizations. Women make up the majority of volunteers, especially in caring for the grand wee ones and elderly parents or relatives, but the men aren’t far behind them in the overall number of volunteering hours.

The contribution of those at mid-life and beyond makes an enormous impact on our society. Heaven save us from where we would be without the blessing of time us older ones have to give. The statistics also show that seniors are the happiest age group of all. Maybe it’s the giving back. Could there be a correlation? I’ll keep that topic for another day.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Myth: Seniors have no style

July 26, 2019


Yes, Virginia, many younger people believe they invented cool”and “hip,” just like they think they invented sex. (No kidding.) Actually, thanks to the jazz world, these terms became part of our conversations over seventy years ago. They were not invented in the 1990’s as many young people think, nor were the attributes that made one cool and hip or a “hipster.” Now as far as style is concerned, well, to quote one researcher, “Seniors have been around the block a few times. Which means they know how to shake a leg, how to cut a rug, and more importantly, how to dress to the nines.” We may have traded our stilettos for cute wedges or flats and given up torturing shapewear (um, girdles) under our skintight spandex dresses, but  even now, using the data base in our heads that is filled with decades of fabulous fashion tips, we can still make an entrance that leaves mouths open and eyes filled with awe and admiration. That’s style!  

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Myth: Older People in the Workplace

June 7, 2019

Please don’t shoot me, I am only the messenger, but this myth does raise my hackles almost to Mars! An important review done in 2009, studied stereotypes of older people in the workplace by bringing together the findings from over 100 studies of age-related stereotyping at work. What the researchers found was that stereotypes of older workers have three strong themes. First, we are perceived as less motivated and competent at work. This dovetails with the myth I refuted in April, Seniors Are Warm-Hearted, But Impaired, that older people are viewed as warm but not very competent—but in fact, there is little evidence that our work performance declines with age. Some studies even show that, relative to younger people, older people are more productive at their jobs! Imagine that. 

Second, numerous studies show that older employees are seen as harder to train or retrain, making them less valuable as employees. This assumption reflects the low-competence myth I busted. And, it highlights the assumptions of older employees’ inability to change, our likely shorter tenure with the company, and our lack of potential for development. 

Last, we seasoned workers are perceived as being more expensive employees because we have higher salaries and, due to declining health, use more health care benefits. This piece of the stereotype reflects the widespread, though exaggerated, assumption that old age and illness are one and the same.

On a positive note, although it would appear that the stereotypes of older workers are uniformly negative, there exists a substantial amount of research showing older employees, compared with their younger-age counterparts, as more trustworthy, stable, sociable, and dependable. (Score one for our team!) These beliefs reflect a warmer and more positive view of older workers. Also, while younger people think that we older workers are less worthy of advancement and less interpersonally skilled, we are seen as more reliable, compared to younger workers. (Gee, no kidding?) 

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Myth: Seniors Are Not Tech Savvy

May 23, 2019

Several studies from the respected Pew Research Center dispel this myth with their findings, yet 55% of younger people think we can’t find the location of the ON button for our computers without help. In truth, 67% of us use the internet on a regular basis, and more than 50% of us have broadband, or Wi-Fi, at home. I think the largest part of the misunderstanding comes from the use of social media. Lots of seniors see serious outcomes for young folks who can only communicate via their cellphones. Keeping face–to-face communication and actual phone calls alive, I think, is another reason why seniors reject the 24/7 use of computers, messaging, and social media.  The younger generations were born with phones in their hands, which must have been painful for their mothers giving birth ;-), and social media fluency equals intelligence in their eyes. As it turns out, the reason for the myth about our internet savvy comes from the fact that we use different social media platforms than they do. While Instagram, Twitter, Qzone, Reddit, Snapchat, and several others are favored by the young, we are the Facebook generation; 70% of mid-lifers and seniors check into Facebook every day. Clearly, we are in touch with modern technology, just on a different wave-length. 

Could you live without your computer? What are your concerns about how social media is affecting our relationships with others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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