Most older adults and caregivers mistakenly believe that sharp declines in quality of life are inevitable with age, according to a new survey by WebMD and The John A. Hartford Foundation. 

The majority of seniors think that depression, dementia and lack of mobility can’t be helped. And three in four older adults surveyed were not aware that they have the right to ask for and receive healthcare tailored especially to their needs and wants, the authors reported.

The takeaway? The care of older adults is mired in misinformation, according to Terry Fulmer, Ph.D., RN, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation. 

“We, as a society, have come to accept the downsides of aging … rather than asking for care that helps us benefit from the positive aspects of our later years,” Fulmer said in a statement.

In response, the foundation is encouraging healthcare systems to prioritize four components of eldercare: determining the priorities of individual patients, mobility, medication stewardship, and detection and treatment mentation-associated conditions such as depression and dementia.

Among the survey highlights:

  • Nearly 40% of respondents are not aware that certain prescription medications can impact cognition, and only half know that certain medicines should be avoided as a person gets older.
  • Most older people have multiple chronic conditions, take five-to-10 medications daily, and experience some level of disability.
  • More than 40% mistakenly believe that it is normal for people to get depressed as they age. 
  • Few respondents are doing any activities designed to improve mobility. However, people are taking measures to prevent falls, such as holding on to handrails and wearing sensible shoes. Women take these measures more often than men.
  • Only half say their doctors and other care providers have done a “good” or “excellent” job at using an age-friendly approach.
  • Patients who have six or more conditions are more likely to rate their providers’ care as “fair” or “poor.”

The survey is available to download through WebMD.