Myths & Facts

“Old people are people who have lived a certain number of years and that is all.”
~Alex Comfort, ‘A Good Age’ and ‘Joy of Sex’~
A myth is an idea or a belief that is not true. Myths are often widely held and they are powerful. They influence our attitudes and actions and encourage discrimination.
 
Myths about ageing are highly ingrained in society, even amongst older adults themselves.
 
They lead younger people to pre-judge older adults and impact how those younger people anticipate their later years.They negatively impact the self-esteem and quality of life of older adults.
 
Below are examples of some very common myths and the not-so-well-known or accepted facts. Following those are examples of famous people and what they accomplished in their later years. We may believe they are the exceptions. In fact, the majority of older adults are just as independent and capable of making their own decisions about how they choose to live their lives. They may not be household names, but they, along with all other older adults, deserve to be valued and respected and acknowledged for who they are, individuals like anyone of any age.
 

MYTH: Most seniors live in nursing homes.

 

FACT: 92.1% of Canadian seniors aged 65 and over live in private households or dwellings (as part of couples, alone or with others). The majority live in a couple with a spouse or common-law-partner. (2011 census)
 

MYTH: Seniors don’t pull their own weight. Ageing means fewer or even no contributions to society.

 
FACT:
 

  • One in four (24%) older adults, aged 65 to 70 is still working. 1
  • Today’s seniors volunteer more hours per year than other age groups.2
    • In 2010, Canadian seniors (over the age of 65) contributed a total of 372 million volunteer hours with an economic value of 5.5 billion dollars.3
    • Together with their rising numbers, their education, health and wealth and the social and economic support their volunteer work provides, they are a strong force within local communities and the broader society. 4
    • As caregivers to spouses, family, friends and neighbours, seniors are a vital force in reducing health care and social service costs. 5
  • Seniors are major contributors to our economy through the income, property and sales taxes they pay.6
  • Collectively, seniors are a powerful consumer force whose participation in the marketplace and the service sectors helps provide businesses with a significant and stable consumer base. 7
  • Older adults also make significant charitable donations. They are more likely to donate and to donate larger amounts than younger adults. 8

 

MYTH: Older workers are less productive, less committed to their jobs, not dynamic or innovative, unreceptive to change, unable to be trained or costly to the organization due to health problems and higher salaries.

 
FACT: There is significant evidence that older workers:

  • are highly productive, offering considerable on-the-job experience;
  • do as well or better than younger workers on creativity, flexibility, information processing, accident rates, absenteeism and turnover;
  • can learn as well as younger workers with appropriate training methods and environments; and
  • do not fear change but rather fear discrimination. 9

 

MYTH: Ageing means the end of learning.

 
FACT:

  • Learning is, in fact, a lifelong process.
  • More and more, colleges and universities are realizing the huge demand for continuing education in the senior population.10
  • Seniors are becoming technically savvy, using technology to find out about their rights, laws, services or just for pleasure to keep socially connected with family and friends.11
  • Seniors are regular users of the internet, in fact, 88 per cent of online seniors, over the age of 75, are going online at least once a day, to send emails (98 per cent), research topics of personal interest (76 per cent) do personal banking and investing (65 percent), and go shopping (33 per cent).12
  • More than half of online seniors older than 75 belong to a social networking site such as Facebook, and more than one-third of them go to those sites daily.13

 

Famous Seniors (2017)

 

  • Hazel McCallion retired in 2014 at age 93, after serving 36 years as mayor of Mississauga, Canada’s 6th largest city.
  • Jean Chrétien was prime minister of Canada from age 59 – 69.
  • John Diefenbaker was prime minister from age 61-67.
  • Roberta Bondar, astronaut and neurologist, at age 71, still pursues her interests in research, photography and motivational speaking. She is one of North America’s most sought-after and respected speakers.
  • Lloyd Robertson, until age 78, anchored the CTV National News. He still works for CTV.
  • Peter Mansbridge, age 68, is the long-time CBC National News anchor.
  • Anne Murray retired from her musical career at age 64. At 65 she released her autobiography and now, at 71, devotes time to the charities she supports.
  • Singer, songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, age 78, released a new album this year. He has a busy 2017 concert schedule, performing across Canada and the U.S.
  • Margaret Atwood, world-renowned, award winning author, environmental activist and inventor is still writing and being published at age 77. When she was 64 she invented the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate remote robotic signing of documents etc. in ink. She co-founded and is still a director of the company that developed it.
  • Mick Jagger, age 73, and Paul McCartney, 74, are still performing to sell-out crowds and fans of all ages.
  • Heather Reisman, age 68, is founder, Chair and CEO of Indigo, Canada’s largest book retailer. In 2009, she was listed in the Financial Times as one of the top 50 businesswomen in the world.
  • Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at age 75.
  • Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers at age 59 to launch the McDonald’s chain and continued working until his death at age 81.
  • Col. Harland Sanders used his first social security cheque to launch the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise when he was 65.
  • Julia Child, in 2000, at the age of 88, was still making new episodes of the cooking show she co-hosted.
  • At age 84, Clint Eastwood is still acting and directing.
  • Betty White is still entertaining and going strong at age 95.
  • At age 40, John Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth. At age 77, he returned to space as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery.
  1. MacEwen, Angella. (2012). Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Alternative federal budget 2012 technical paper, Working After Age 65, p. 1. Online: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2012/04/WorkingAfter65.pdf
  2. Statistics Canada. (2010). Volunteering in Canada. Table 2. Online: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012001/t/11638/tbl02-eng.htm
  3. Cook, Suzanne L., Sladowski, Paula Speevak, Volunteer Canada. (February, 2013). Volunteering and Older Adults, Final Report. p. 5 & 25. Online: http://volunteer.ca/content/volunteering-and-older-adults-final-report
  4. ibid, p. 49
  5. Public Health Agency of Canada, Healthy Aging in Canada: A New Vision, 2. A Vital Investment – A Discussion Brief. Online: http://www.gov.mb.ca/shas/publications/docs/fpt/healthy_agin_in_canada_short.pdf
  6. Ontario Partnership on Ageing & Developmental Issues. Aging Issues. Online: http://www.opadd.on.ca/Caregiver/agingissues.htm
  7. ibid
  8. Mei, Zhaowen, Fast, Janet, Eales, Jacquie, In Partnership with:
Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE) Advocacy Committee. (September 2013). Gifts of a Lifetime: The Contributions of Older Canadians. p. 12. Online: http://www.mysage.ca/public/download/documents/4754
  9. Ontario Human Rights Commission. Policy on discrimination against older people because of age, 5. Employment. Online: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-discrimination-against-older-people-because-age/5-employment#fn17
  10. Landry, Dr. Roger F. Seniors can positively impact their aging process. Online: http://www.senioryears.com/factsonaging.html
  11. Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (now Elder Abuse Ontario). Annual Report 2012 – 2013. The conversation Continues. p.5. Online: http://www.elderabuseontario.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ONPEA_Annual_Report_2013.pdf
  12. Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniors, (2012). Backgrounder p 30. Online: http://www.reveraliving.com/about-revera/news/publications/docs/backgroundertech-savvyseniors_june20
  13. ibid