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What Do We Know About Superagers?

Aging Well Priorities and the Older Americans Act
Superagers -- people in their 80s who have the memory function of people 30 years younger -- had specific characteristics that set them apart, an observational study showed.

What do we know about Superagers? Superagers is a term given to older adults who were part of a cognitive study and received test scores attributed to much younger, middle-aged adults.  Superagers had more gray matter volume in the medial temporal lobe, cholinergic forebrain, and motor thalamus than typical older adults and slower total gray matter atrophy over time, reported Marta Garo-Pascual, MS, a PhD candidate at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain, and co-authors. However, there were no differences in amyloid-beta, APOE status, or other dementia biomarkers between superagers and typical older adults, the researchers reported in Lancet Healthy Longevity. At Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, we are always impressed with the older clients we have who exhibit much higher cognitive abilities and higher non-cognitive scores than similarly aged clients.

MedPage Today’s recent article, “Why Do Superagers Have Sharper Memory?” notes that there was no difference in the amount each group exercised. However, a model assessing 89 clinical, lifestyle, and demographic variables indicated that faster movement and better mental health were key factors differentiating superagers from others. The researchers noted that the findings may suggest an inherent resistance to age-related memory decline.

Learning more about superagers, Garo- Pascual states, “We are now closer to solving one of the biggest unanswered questions about superagers: whether they are truly resistant to age-related memory decline or have coping mechanisms that help them overcome this decline better than their peers.”

“Our findings suggest superagers are resistant to these processes, though the precise reasons for this are still unclear,” she observed. “By looking further into links between superaging and movement speed we may be able to gain important insights into the mechanisms behind the preservation of memory function deep into old age.”

The results are “consistent with reports of resilience to Alzheimer’s disease in superaging, although the mechanisms underlying this resilience remain unknown,” noted Alexandra Touroutoglou, PhD, of Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues in an accompanying editorial.

“More efforts are needed to refine and harmonize definitions of superaging in multisite studies using large and diverse cohorts,” they added. “Large-scale studies will allow further exploration of resilience factors in superagers, which could lead to new insights in the prevention of age-related memory decline.”

Here’s information about the study that evaluated cognitively healthy older adults in the Vallecas Project longitudinal cohort recruited between October 2011 and January 2014 who were 79½ years or older. Participants were followed for up to six years; the median number of follow-up visits was five. Older adults were classified as superagers if they scored at or above the mean values for a 50 to 56-year-old in the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT) and within one standard deviation of the mean or above for their age and education level in three non-memory tests. They were classified as typical older adults if they scored within one standard deviation of the mean for their age and education level in the FCSRT.

Superagers performed better in the Timed Up and Go (a gauge of mobility) and a finger-tapping test that assessed fine motor function, despite no group difference in self-reported exercise levels between superagers and typical older adults. They also had better self-reported scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory assessment and the Geriatric Depression Scale. They also complained less often about not getting enough sleep than typical older adults, despite no difference in self-reported sleep duration between groups. They generally had more active lifestyles in midlife and had a higher musical background (formal or not) than typical older adults. They demonstrated greater independence in day-to-day living and scored higher on reading tests.

What we know about superagers, such as having a positive attitude, interest in a variety of hobbies, love for learning and a strong desire to remain independent, can help you age well. Having your estate plan in order is one way to lessen the anxiety you feel about your future. Let the attorneys at Beck, Lenox & Stolzer put the pieces together so that you have peace of mind. Free phone consultation here.

Reference: MedPage Today (July 14, 2023) “Why Do Superagers Have Sharper Memory?”

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