2004-07-08 / Savvy Senior




What’s Your Aging IQ?

Dear Savvy Senior,

My 49-year-old husband has become age phobic. He has it stuck in his head that all old people are depressed, grouchy, live in nursing homes and don’t know what day it is. Part of his phobia stems from his mother, who has dementia and his father who recently died in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease, which he’s convinced he will too. I recently heard of a new aging IQ booklet that helps inform people what normal aging is about. Can you tell me about this and would this be good for my husband to read?

Realistic Rita

Dear Rita,

Lot’s of people like your husband have misconceptions about getting old. But, considering what he’s gone through with his parents, it’s pretty understandable. The booklet you’re asking about is called "What’s Your Aging IQ?," a free booklet published by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) that presents mini-stories and quiz questions to test your knowledge of aging and health.

And yes, it’s a great booklet for everybody to read.

What does it really mean to be old?.If you think you know, you might be surprised. In "What’s Your Aging IQ?," you’re asked 28 very enlightening questions that explore some of the commonly-held misconceptions about aging. Here is a sampling to test your whits.


1. If your parents had Alzheimer’s disease, you will inevitably get it. True or False?

2. Most older people are depressed. Yes or No?

3. The older a person gets, the less sleep he or she needs. True or False?

4. Heart disease is a much bigger problem for older men than for older women? True or False?

5. Most older people live alone? True or False?

6. Do people get grumpy as they age? Yes or No?


1. False. Alzheimer’s disease gets more common as people grow older, but it is not a normal part of aging. The overwhelming number of people that get AD have not inherited the disorder.

2. No. For many people, their later years are an active, rewarding time. Depression can be caused by medicine, physical illness or stress. Once the cause of depression is known, the problem often can be treated.

3. False. In later life, it’s the quality of sleep that changes, not total sleep time. Older people may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep which can cause them to wake up tired. But this, too, can be treated.

4. False. The risk of heart disease increases dramatically for women after menopause. By age 65, both men and women have a one in three chance of developing heart disease, but risk can be significantly reduced by following a healthy diet and exercising.

5. False. About 8 out of 10 older men and 6 out of 10 elder women live in family settings - with a husband, wife, or other family members. Less than 5 percent of people over age 65 live in nursing homes.

6. No. Personalities are usually consistent throughout life. So, a young grumpy person is likely to become an old grumpy person, just as a friendly youngster is likely to become a friendly senior.

So, how did you do? Did you know everything or did some of the answers surprise you? If you want to take the full IQ test you can order a free booklet or see it online at www.niapublications. org.

Savvy Resource

National Institute on Aging: Offers lots of great publications on health, aging and care giving issues, most of which are free. To see what’s available visit www.niapublications.org or call 1-800-222-2225.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.

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