How to Become a “Super Ager”
The old adage “you’re only as old as you feel” may strike differently for seniors who have health challenges. But the good news is it’s never too late to make positive health and habit changes that can lead to a more youthful life. Fellowship Square takes a look at the phenomenon of the “super ager” — and tips on how to become one.
A super-ager has been defined by the medical science community as a person in their 70s or 80s that has the mental and or physical capabilities of people decades younger than them. According to the Harvard Medical School website, the key to staying mentally and physically young could be as simple as “moving out of your comfort zone.”
Research by Dr. Bradford Dickerson, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues suggests that “embracing new mental challenges” could preserve both brain tissue and brain function. The study also suggests that super-agers have a different perspective about problem-solving.
Dickerson says, “They may approach these tasks as a challenge they can succeed at, in contrast to typical older adults who may give up.” Perhaps the secret is a hearty dose of self-confidence and believing in oneself!
But Dr. Lisa Barrett, one of Dickerson’s colleagues in the study “speculates that super-agers may share a willingness to endure discomfort to master a new skill, like playing a musical instrument or speaking a new language. Super-agers keep moving out of their comfort zones to gain new areas of expertise.”
When it comes to staying young, physically, maintaining aerobic capacity may be the ticket. In the same Harvard Medical School article, Dr. J. Andrew Taylor, director of the Cardio-vascular Research Laboratory at -Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network stated, “Some studies have indicated that people in their 80s who exercised at high intensity for 20 to 45 minutes a day have an aerobic capacity of people 30 years younger," says.
Aerobic capacity, defined as “the amount of oxygen you can take in and distribute to your tissues in a minute, expressed as maximal oxygen consumption, or VO2 max,” is lost on average of 10 percent every decade after the age of 30. Studies indicate that as VO2 max increases, “the risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and death fall.”
So staying active and embracing mental challenges may be the keys to becoming a super-ager. When it comes to becoming physically active, seniors should check with their doctors about an exercise routine that is right for them. And when it comes to mental challenges, seniors can seek out games or new hobbies, but they can also try to change their perspective and think of things in new ways when it comes to challenges or problem-solving. Fellowship Square encourages its residents and all seniors to strive for super-ager status!