SuperAgers Show Grit

In older age, adults must work to prevent muscle and bone loss with regular weight-bearing exercise.  Preventing brain volume loss also takes action, and studies have found that a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors may play a role in maintaining a youthful brain.  SuperAgers  – adults over 80 who maintain memory abilities comparable with people in their 50s and 60s appear to have several things in common, including being adaptable and staying engaged with life. 

According to a recent Fortune Well article, researchers have discovered that SuperAgers tend to be resilient and enjoy the challenge of learning new skills, interacting with new people, and approaching change with tenacity.  Engaging socially as well as challenging the brain with new tasks and experiences is also important to promote cognitive health.  Social isolation and loneliness, in contrast, puts seniors at increased risk for heart disease, dementia and early mortality. 

While genetics play a role in how well we age, nutrition, exercise and social interaction also contribute to optimal brain health and quality of life.  By staying engaged and making a contribution, older adults also achieve a sense of purpose and belonging.  SuperAgers challenge stereotypes surrounding aging and strive to live to their fullest potential with grit and determination. 

SuperAgers are still relatively rare, comprising only roughly 10 percent of older adults.  Normally, overall brain volume begins to decline between the ages of 50 and 80, but research shows that the brains of SuperAgers shrink at slower rates than their peers, maintaining volume specifically in the regions associated with memory and focus.  SuperAgers also maintain a thicker anterior cingulate which demonstrates the presence of more neurons in this area of the brain.   These physical characteristics of SuperAger brains help explain why they maintain strong memory, learning and focus capabilities. 

Learn more about SuperAging by following this link to Northwestern Medicine’s Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease.