Super Agers are people who are over 80 and perform cognitively as well as those much younger. A study was done looking at 40 adults between the ages of 70 and 80. It compared these older adults with a group of 41 younger adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Twenty-three of the older adults performed normally as regards to memory and cognition for their age group. However, 17 of the older adults performed equally as well compared to the younger adults who were 4 or even 5 decades their juniors! MRI studies showed the brains of these “super agers” revealed no shrinkage of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, areas that typically shrink with age.
Researchers are not sure what makes a Super Ager, but there are some clues: Most are socially connected and have a positive attitude. My mother is a member of this club. She will not let me reveal her exact age, so I can’t tell you how long she has been a part of this esteemed group. However, she is athletic, witty, smart and articulate. She plays doubles tennis, bridge and golf. She hikes and bikes. She goes to lectures and classes as often as she can and is an avid reader of books and newspapers. She volunteers as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children.
She looks at least 20 years younger than her actual age. She eats a healthy diet much like the one that is described below, and it is something she has done for over half of her life.
Are you wondering how you too can achieve Super Ager status?
Eat Like a Greek
Multiple studies have found the Mediterranean diet is good for brain and heart health. It improves mood, cholesterol and prevents coronary artery disease and diabetes. Those who follow the diet eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruit, lean protein, and drink an occasional glass of red wine. [For more information on the specifics of this diet, check out: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801]
Exercise your Body and your Brain
Several other studies have found that reading, doing crossword puzzles and exercising the body and the brain in general is good for maintaining cognitive function. This is something that my mother has done for decades. She has always been physically active. If you have not been physically active yourself, it is never too late to start; fitness can be achieved at any age.
One way to improve brain function and increase neural connections is by doing ballroom dancing. In fact, a study of seniors who were followed over 20 years found those who did ballroom dancing 2 to 3 times a week reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping seventy-six percent. It’s good cardio, too! Time to find a local dance studio and get started.
Healthy aging is something that we all hope for. Clearly it takes work, but you don’t need super powers or even tights and a cape. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to take flight toward achieving and maintaining physical health, and to keep your brain vital and fit. My mother is having the time of her life, and she is over 80 years old.
When you get there you can too!