Are you a SuperAger? Read on and find out

The term SuperAgers was created by US researchers at Northwestern University, a research university in Evanston, Illinois, who define it as “adults over age 80 who have the memory capacity of individuals who are at least three decades younger.”

What is a SuperAger?

A SuperAger is someone aged 80 or older who exhibits cognitive function that is comparable to an average person who is middle-aged.

Additionally, SuperAgers show less brain volume loss than is typical for someone their age. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists measured the thickness of the cortex in 24 SuperAgers and 12 members of a control group.

Normally ageing adults lose roughly 2.24% in brain volume per year, but the SuperAgers lost around 1.06%. Because SuperAgers lose brain volume more slowly than their peers, they may be better protected from dementia.

Common traits of SuperAgers

  1. SuperAgers live an active lifestyle.

Staying active is one of the best things people can do as they age. Even exercising twice a week will help lower a person’s chances of developing dementia later in life. Physical activity results in increased oxygen intake, which helps your body perform optimally. Exercise helps your heart, and muscle-strengthening exercises specifically reduce the risk for falls.

Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight. The risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease triples in individuals with a body mass index (BMI) over 30.

  1. SuperAgers continue to challenge themselves.

Mental activity can be just as important as physical activity. If Sudoku does not speak to you, no need to fret. Mental activity comes in many forms. Try reading an article on a subject with which you are unfamiliar or take classes that put you outside your comfort zone. These will help stimulate and engage the brain in new ways.

  1. SuperAgers love to chat.

SuperAgers tend to report strong social relationships with others, says said Northwestern Medicine Geriatrician Lee A. Lindquist, MD. To support this, the attention region deep in the brain is larger in SuperAgers. This region is packed with large, spindly neurons called von Economo neurons, which are thought to play a role in social processing and awareness. Dr. Lindquist states that autopsies on SuperAgers revealed they have more than four to five times the number of such neurons compared to the average person in their 80s.

“While we can’t guarantee that you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease if you have a strong social network, it’s an important part of the lifestyle decisions we can make – like diet and exercise –that can contribute to living better, longer,” said Dr Lindquist.

  1. SuperAgers do indulge.

Yes, that’s correct. Dr. Lindquist says SuperAgers span individuals who are fitness buffs and those who indulge in a nightcap every evening. They also indulged in an occasional glass of alcohol; people who drink moderately were 23% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or signs of memory problems than those who don’t drink alcohol.

Jennifer Ailshire, an associate professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, told HuffPost SuperAgers do have certain qualities.

“We think of SuperAgers ... as people who are reaching 85 years of age, so they’re exceeding the typical or average life expectancy for ... their cohort,” she said. “For us, a SuperAger is not just someone who’s long-lived. It’s also someone who’s maintained a fairly high-level of physical, cognitive, psychological, and social well-being.”

How people go about accomplishing these qualities can be vastly different, but the common denominator for SuperAgers is that most appear to be socially active or engage in continuous, meaningful activity, with exceptions.

Do you know a SuperAger?

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Antonia Norris

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Antonia has led the operations and growth of the agedcare101.com.au and villages.com.au within the DCM Group in Australia and New Zealand for several years. This has included the research and creation agedcare101 in 2016, the creation of the DCM Institute and Te Ara Institute, the joint contribution of Care & Living with Mercer (CaLM) and the TV series, The Best 30 Years, screened on NINE nationally.

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Journalist

Journalist

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

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Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.