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The AARP Bulletin1 recently included an article on Super Agers. By definition, a “super ager is someone over 80 with an exceptional memory – one at least as good as a person 20 to 30 years younger.” Based upon the research cited in the article, super agers are quite rare, comprising less than 10% of the population.
One of the most well-known super agers is Norman Lear, the award-winning television producer and director. (For the seniors among us, think: All in the Family.) Lear is 100 years old, and you would never believe it if you saw him interviewed on TV.
As we age, we worry about health and memory. While many of us assume we can’t control as much as we’d like, this article offers clues as to the steps you can take to work towards becoming a super ager. Read on for seven secrets that might help you to become a super ager…
- Super agers control their blood sugar and blood pressure. Super agers tend to have healthier blood pressure and blood sugar levels than the general population. They control both through medication and by eating a high-nutrient diet. Older adults who follow an eating pattern rich in whole grains, veggies, leafy greens, nuts, berries, and fish, and low in red meat, butter and sweets – slowed brain aging by 7.5 years and kept thinking and memory sharper…"
- “Super agers talk to their friends – a lot. Older adults who connected every day with others had less shrinkage in key brain areas than those who seldom had contact with pals and relatives…Perhaps that’s why memory declined fastest and furthest in people who felt lonely most often…”
- “Super agers avoid stress and prioritize mental health. A recent three-year Danish study found that depression doubled risk for dementia, and a 2023 study found that those with high stress levels had a 37 percent higher risk for memory problems compared with those reporting low stress levels. Another study found that older adults with depression who got treatment – including medication and talk therapy – were up to 32 percent less likely to develop dementia over 10 to 14 years than those who didn’t.”
- “Super agers prioritize sleep. During slumber, your brain clears away toxic waste that builds up early in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2022 Canadian study found that trouble falling or staying asleep three or more nights per week for three months boosted the risk for worsening memory in older adults. But don’t rely on drugs: Chronic use of prescription sleep drugs boosted the risk for dementia by 48 percent…”
- “Super agers protect their vision and hearing. A University of Washington study found that at-risk adults who received hearing aids showed thinking and memory losses that were 48 percent slower compared with those who didn’t. Another study found that those who had cataract surgery had a 29 percent lower risk for dementia compared with those who did not have the procedure.”
- “Super agers don’t exercise more, but they push themselves physically. Spanish researchers found that what distinguished super agents most profoundly was they have greater speed, mobility, agility and balance than typical older adults – despite reporting the same exercise frequency. One reason may be that super agers tend to do more demanding activities such as gardening or stair-climbing. In other words, walking a mile is good for you; walking fast for a mile to get your heart rate up is better.”
- “Super agers do more than Wordle. Super agers do crossword puzzles and Sudoku games more often than normal agers, but they are also more likely to frequently read, listen to music, travel, play games and attend lectures and concerts. “Variety is beneficial,” says brain-game researcher Aaron Seitz of Northwestern University. “Your brain needs to do a lot of different things. If we want to do them well, science and common sense suggest exercising it in a lot of different ways.”
1 Dorin McDowell, Jeanne. “Super Agers: How They Live Longer; Think Stronger; Enjoy Life More.” AARP Bulletin, Nov. 2023.