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What are Super Agers?

Written by Dayna C
Last Updated :
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Super Agers are people in their 90s, or older, who are able to maintain their zest for life and show no signs of dementia.

Long life tips

They are the lucky ones, who have the genes for longevity, but it’s not just the genes that are keeping them going. Lifestyle choices and environmental factors are also important factors in determining how they age.

The secrets of super-agers lifestyles could help the rest of us live better and longer as we age. Dr. Claudia Kawas, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, has led a team that has tracked people aged over 90 for the past 15 years who live in a retirement village. Participants of the study have agreed to their brains being examined post mortem.

Super Agers

To their surprise the researchers found that about 40 per cent of those who had aged well and showed no signs of dementia, had all the brain physical changes found in Alzheimer’s Disease.

A study by Professor Bryan Strange at the Technical University of Madrid found that super-agers had similar concentrations of dementia blood biomarkers to other people. These observations suggest that super-agers have some resistance to age-related memory decline.

Another study by Professor Emily Rogalski and team at Northwestern University in Chicago focused on people 80+ years who have memory performance as good as 50 or 60-year-olds. Their brains were physically more similar to the brains of people aged 50– 60 than their 80-year-old peers.

The Brain

Brain structures of the super-agers were in a better state of preservation, with more grey matter in the major areas involved in memory and movement. The lifestyle of super-agers may have lessons for the rest of us. They eat a healthy diet balanced rich in fruit and vegetables with plenty of protein. Those who were a little overweight in their 70s outlived others.

Cheers to Good Health

They also indulged in an occasional glass of alcohol; people who drink moderately were 23 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who abstained. Super-agers maintain strong social ties to family and the community they live in and were more likely to report valuing close, meaningful relationships.

The Physical Aspect of Super Agers

They keep physically active, not necessarily gym workouts, but moderate exercise, walking or yoga. Tests showed super-agers had better mobility, agility and balance. They also reported having been more active in midlife.

Super Agers were more independent in their day-to-day living compared with their peers. They scored higher in intelligence tests and were less likely to have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure. Years of formal education were not significant for super-agers. However, many have a commitment to lifelong learning. They are open to new experiences, ideas and new knowledge.

Most challenge their brain every day, reading or learning something new. Many continue to work into their 80s. Super-agers were more likely to have a musical background than typical older adults. Other studies found that musical training is associated with improved late-life memory.

Sleep, Pets and Hobbies

Super-agers maintain regular sleep patterns. Compared to the average senior they complained less frequently about not getting enough sleep. Better mental health was one of the strongest factors associated with super-agers. They have a positive mindset, adapt to changes and maintain a sense of purpose.

Aging secrets

They mitigate stress through mindfulness, meditation, pets or hobbies. Super-agers scored better in clinical tests to measure levels of anxiety and depression, than their peers. Research has suggested depression and anxiety can impair performance on memory tests in people of all ages, and are risk factors for developing dementia.

While genetic factors play a part, lifestyle choices and environmental factors are important in how well we age. While individual preferences and circumstances may vary, integrating these principles into one’s lifestyle could promise a more vibrant and fulfilling aging journey.

References:

The 90+ Study – UCI MIND – University of California, Irvine.

The 90+ Study, conducted by UCI MIND, investigates the oldest-old demographic. It is one of the world’s most extensive studies on this age group, with over 1,600 enrollees. The study, which Dr. Claudia Kawas is heavily involved in, examines various factors affecting the elderly, including lifestyle and genetic influences on longevity and cognitive health​ (UCI MIND)​.

UCI Health Article: The secrets of ‘super agers’

This UCI Health article discusses the research conducted by Dr. Claudia Kawas and her team on super agers. It highlights that the study has observed more than 2,000 individuals who have reached their 90s and beyond with exceptional memories. It emphasizes that there is no single secret to aging well, acknowledging the importance of a good diet and lifelong learning​ (UCI Health)​.

UCI MIND Article: New insights from the study of people age 90 and above

This article from UCI MIND shares insights from a study on individuals over the age of 90. It details the process of how the research team, including Dr. Claudia Kawas, reviews data posthumously to understand the presence of neuropathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The findings challenge previous assumptions about dementia and suggest that some individuals may possess a level of resilience against dementia despite having neuropathological changes in the brain​ (UCI MIND)​.

About Author

Dayna C
Dayna has an incredible passion for helping others and a background as an in-home caregiver for the elderly. She left the field temporarily three years ago to stay at home with her twins, but found that she really missed working with senior citizens. She launched LoAids as a way to help not just her own loved ones and former clients, but ALL seniors live life to the fullest in their golden years.  Follow her on LINKEDIN and TWITTER. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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