What is meant by the term ‘super-ager?’ Apparently, this new term belongs to those ranging from age 80-90 years, exhibiting memory and other brain functions akin to someone much younger. Scientists have begun to study these ‘super-agers’ in attempts to find the secrets to avoiding conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other age-related declining cognitive functions. What contributes to an individual retaining health of their brain? Research is now pointing to what may make someone super-age.
Studies screened over 400 elderly folks finding only 35 of which qualified for the research, highlighting that this ‘super-aging’ condition was rare indeed. Those who ‘passed’ the screening and went on to be studied admit that it is only in their attitudes about age and themselves that contribute to their youthful, active brain. “I am young inside” and “I grasp fast,” are some of the sentiments shared by these super-agers. “You are not so important that you just concentrate on yourself. You have to think about other people” says one of those who qualified as young in the brain -pointing to selfless service being one of the trademarks of a super-ager.
One who seems to ‘super-age’ does not take on the same qualitative demise of the brain and cognitive functions as do a large percentage of elderly today. In fact, in the brain of ‘super-agers’ the outer layer, or cortex, has been found to be thicker than most people who age. Likewise, the anterior cingulate, deep in the brain and used for attention, was also found to be larger than in even most 50-60 year olds.
Those who age well, and keep their brain functions seem to have a healthy, positive attitude about life and a desire to serve others. They think less about their own problems and doctor trips and go out of their way to make sure others are cared for and loved. Could these simple tactics be the secret to maintaining health and retaining youthfulness? Researchers are now pointing to super-agers such as a 92 year old Holocaust survivor, 96 year old retired neuroscientist and one 81 year old individual who smokes a pack a day and drinks a regular martini – as holding keys to mental health. Apparently, their positive attitude and selfless behavior is saving their brains from demise.
In order to be considered for this study, and to qualify as a ‘super-ager’ – one has to pass the criteria of memory tests and mental exams as well as agree to donating their brains to science after they ‘die’ – if they ever do, that is. Who knows, with their super-brains, they may just outlive the scientists and doctors to whom they have promised their brains.
At this point, it is beneficial to learn that kindness and optimism go a long way in keeping our brains healthy and functioning optimally. As researchers point to what makes someone a super-ager, we could all use a stronger dose of self-love and service to others. Perhaps if we could stop the tyrannical mental chatter which degrades our person and convinces us we need more medical care long enough, we could take the time to be of greater service, and thereby – age gracefully with super brain power.
Studies mentioned can be found in sources below.
Written by: Stasia Bliss