Exploding Three Myths About Aging

August 21, 2015 | posted in: Blog, Employee Education | by
All our notions about getting older may simply be wrong, new research suggests

For better or worse, America has a youth-obsessed culture. Images of celebrities crowd our supermarket checkout lanes and hand-held devices, their creative talents superseded only by an ability to attract publicity.

This 24/7 media attention on youth also tends to project images of older people that show them in mental and physical decline, less productive at work—and even a bit grumpier to be around.

The media, it seems, mostly gets it wrong. Consider these three myths, debunked by a growing body of scientific research that suggests that life gets better as we grow older.

Myth no. 1: Older workers are less productive
In jobs requiring experience, some studies show that older workers actually have a performance and consistency advantage over younger workers. In 2011, economists examined the number and severity of job-related errors of 3,800 workers on a Mercedes-Benz assembly line from 2003 to 2006. Over the four-year study period, older workers committed slightly fewer severe errors, while younger workers’ error rates increased.1 The study authors concluded, “Our results suggest that productivity in this plant, which is typical for large-scale manufacturing, does not decline until at least age 60.”

Myth no. 2: Older people are prone to loneliness
Although social circles may generally contract as people age, this doesn’t suggest they are lonelier, say several social scientists. In fact, friendships tend to improve with age, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article citing the co-author of a 2004 study who noted, “Older adults typically report better marriages, more supportive friendships, less conflict with children and siblings, and closer ties with members of their social networks than younger adults.”2

Myth no. 3: Older people have worse quality of life than younger adults
A Gallup-Healthways survey of Americans’ well-being in five categories revealed that individuals age 65 and older had better quality of life in each category than younger adults. The chart below illustrates the percentage of people who reported they were “thriving” in each category.

chart-2What does this encouraging research mean for you? Following is some great advice that we’ve collected from retirees over the years for those who are looking ahead to their “golden years.”

  • Get healthy – Your doctor (and Nana) were right: Diet and exercise are key to maintaining good health.
  • Start planning sooner – The longer you have to save and invest, the less money you need to put aside each month— and the less time you’ll spend worrying about it.
  • Explore common interests with your spouse – Retirement is a gift for those who can find common interests with spouses, friends and family members.
  • Spend less and save more – Living within one’s means is a true secret to happiness.
  • Develop interests outside of work – Why wait to retire before exploring activities that interest you? Try new things that you might like to do in retirement before you stop working


1 Axel Borsch-Supan and Matthias Weiss, “Productivity and age: Evidence from work teams at the assembly line,” Munich Center for the Economics of Aging: Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, May 2013, http://mea.mpisoc.mpg.de/uploads/user_mea_discussionpapers/1057_148-07.pdf.

2 Anne Tergesen, “Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong,” The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-everything-you-think-about-aging-may-be-wrong-1417408057.

Disclosure: This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal or investment advice. If you are seeking investment advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.

Kmotion, Inc., P.O. Box 1456, Tualatin, OR 97062; www.kmotion.com

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