Will you be a super ager?
Research has found a group of super agers people aged 80-100 who are more mentally sharp than most 50 somethings.
Most articles we read talks about cognitive decline, how we begin to lose brain power as we age. It’s been put down to the age process and down to the retirement process, with people taking longer to do tasks they did quicker when in work and allowing themselves to slow down overall. In this study 18% of the people classed as a super ager never retired, and most either moved on to a new career or were very active in the community the super ager group had purpose to their lives.
We see people like David Attenborough still in work at 91, but his life is different to most of us. But we know working at 70 and beyond is good for us, if we feel fit and healthy. This gets me thinking of what comes first and it could well be down to our genes and lifestyle.
Emily Rogalski, professor of cognitive neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago, said what the super-ager group had in common was a positive attitude to life and an unusually high proportion of a rare type of brain cell called a von Economo neuron. The findings suggest that super-agers have unique personality profiles.
Her research has found that being a super ager doesn’t mean giving up alcohol and smoking – 71% of super-agers smoked, and 83% drank alcohol regularly. But they did all share a highly positive attitude to life, able to bounce back even when there are setbacks. So, it could be that personality has a bigger impact than physical health.
Rogalski said personality tests on super-agers suggested a unique personality profile, highlighting optimism, resilience and perseverance as well as active lifestyles . . . reading and travel were constant themes, as were positive social relationships.
The positive relationship aspect is to maintain friendships, and this can lead to higher cognitive functioning and sharper memory in adults and class you as a super ager.
Rogalski said it’s possible that having an active social life can stimulate the brain and keep it exercised and challenged through conversation. Having a social outlet also tends to keep people moving and out of the house.
Those attributes are seen as ways to prevent memory problems in old age and be a super ager.
Who know s if we can do anything about it. Most people reading this will be 50+ and many of their personality characteristics will be pretty well established. It would be a challenge to turn from someone who takes a less than positive view of life – always looking for what goes wrong, into a more positive person. But it might be worth aiming to make some changes. If you notice yourself talking about problems in your life, could you focus on what’s going well?
You could also look at your social network and if you have fewer friends, getting active in the community will get you meeting others and expanding your friendship group.
I’d love to hear your view on this, feel free to comment below, I read every comment.