What Do We Know About Old Age?
You can check your answers here. Under the overview, the explanations for each statement are given on the basis of the findings of the Berlin Aging Study. Details are explained in the BASE monograph.
|1.||The majority of old people are prescribed too many medications.||X|
|2.||Most old people have at least one illness.||X|
|3.||Most old people report that their health is poor.||X|
|4.||Old women live longer and therefore have fewer illnesses than men.||X|
|5.||The majority of very old women need assistance in bathing or showering.||X|
|6.||Most biochemical reference values do not change in old age.||X|
|7.||Depressive disorders become more frequent in old age.||X|
|8.||Most persons aged 70 and above have serious impairments in intellectual functioning.||X|
|9.||About half of those aged 90 years and over exhibit severe mental decline (dementia).||X|
|10.||Most old people receive too many psychotropic drugs.||X|
|11.||Everyday life for older adults consists mainly of passive activity and rest.||X|
|12.||Old people are preoccupied with death and dying.||X|
|13.||Memory gets worse with age.||X|
|14.||Most old people are no longer able to learn new things.||X|
|15.||Most old people believe that they can no longer control what happens in their life.||X|
|16.||Only very few older persons still have life goals.||X|
|17.||Older adults live mainly in the past.||X|
|18.||Most old people have a confidant with whom they can talk about difficult problems.||X|
|19.||Many older adults are poor.||X|
|20.||Most persons aged 95 and above are institutionalized.||X|
|21.||Children are the main caregivers of old persons who live in private households.||X|
|22.||In old age, the rich are healthier than the poor.||X|
|23.||Women who were housewives for most of their lives are worse off in old age than women who were in paid employment.||X|
The majority of older people are prescribed too many medications — False
Although 92% of older adults take at least one drug, undermedication was found in 24% of cases. Quality and not quantity is clearly the main problem of medical treatment in old age.
Most old people have at least one illness — True
From a medical perspective, nearly all older persons can indeed be diagnosed as having at least one illness. However, life-threatening illnesses were observed in only one third of cases.
Most old people report that their health is poor — False
29% of BASE participants rated their physical health as good or very good, 38% as satisfactory, and only 33% as fair (19%) or poor (14%).
Old women live longer and therefore have fewer illnesses than men — False
Although women have a longer life expectancy, as a group their profile of illnesses is not really very different from that of men of the same age.
The majority of very old women need assistance in bathing or showering — True
60% of women aged 85+ reported needing assistance to take a bath or a shower compared to only 32% of men in this age group.
Most biochemical reference values do not change in old age — True
There were few significant age-related deviations from the reference ranges valid for younger adults on the broad range of biochemical analyses of blood parameters in BASE.
Depressive disorders become more frequent in old age — False
The prevalence of clinically diagnosed depression did not differ significantly across the BASE age groups (70–100+).
Most persons aged 70 and above have serious impairments in cognitive functioning — False
Only 17% of older persons exhibit some form of pathological cognitive impairment and 14% are affected by dementia. However, there is a general decline of intellectual functioning.
About half of those aged 90 and over exhibit severe mental decline (dementia) — True
The prevalence of dementia increases steeply with age. No cases were diagnosed in the 70- to 74-year-olds, but 43% of persons aged 90+ were affected by some level of dementia.
Most old people receive too many psychotropic drugs — False
Two thirds of older adults take psychotropic drugs. Overdosage was not detected. Undermedication was found in 36% of cases, and in a surprising 44% of persons with depression.
Everyday life for older adults consists mainly of passive activity and rest — False
Reconstruction of a typical day for BASE participants shows that on average only 19% of waking hours were spent resting. In the 70–84 age group it was only 12%.
Old people are preoccupied with death and dying — False
Of ten life domains, 70% of BASE participants reported that the well-being of family and relatives occupied their thoughts and actions to a large degree. Only 30% claimed to think a lot about death and dying.
Memory gets worse with age — True
Sizeable negative correlations were found between age and performance in memory tests.
Most old people are no longer able to learn new things — False
Despite memory decline, older people are capable of learning new things even into very old age.
Most old people believe that they can no longer control what happens in their life — False
70% of BASE participants stated that they felt in control of their lives.
Only very few older persons still have life goals — False
94% of BASE participants described scenarios for the future covering a broad range of life domains and goals.
Older adults live mainly in the past — False
40% of participants reported thinking mostly about the present, 30% about the past, and 25% about the future.
Most old people have a confidant with whom they can talk about difficult problems — False
Almost half of the BASE participants said that they had nobody with whom they could discuss personal problems.
Many older adults are poor — False
Old age is not associated with large financial disadvantages. However, financial needs can rise disproportionately in very old age, e.g., when help is needed due to frailty and disability.
Most persons aged 95 and above are institutionalized — False
37% of West Berliners aged 95 and above live in a nursing home.
Children are the main caregivers of old persons who live in private households — False
Only 54% of those in need of assistance had children in Berlin. Of these, 8% received regular household assistance or nursing care from their children. Prime sources of regular care and assistance were spouses and professional community/nursing services.
In old age, the rich are healthier than the poor — False
There were few differences in physical or mental health associated with social class or financial situation.
Women who were housewives for most of their lives are worse off in old age than women who were in paid employment — False
The duration of employment of the married and widowed BASE women was not related to household financial status in old age.
Baltes, P. B. (1997). Gegen Vorurteile und Klischees: Die Berliner Altersstudie — Neue Ergebnisse über die Zielgruppe alte Menschen. Häusliche Pflege, 2, 46–51.
Mayer, K. U., Baltes, P. B., Baltes, M. M., Borchelt, M., Delius, J., Helmchen, H., Linden, M., Smith, J., Staudinger, U. M., Steinhagen-Thiessen, E., & Wagner, M. (2001). What do we know about old age and aging? Conclusions from the Berlin Aging Study. In P. B. Baltes & K. U. Mayer (Eds.), The Berlin Aging Study: Aging from 70 to 100 (pp. 475–519). Cambridge University Press.
Palmore, E. B. (1988). The facts on aging quiz: A handbook of uses and results. Springer.