Getting old can be difficult. There are often physical challenges, medical issues and the common "senior moments" that some older adults experience when memory isn't as sharp as it once was. While it's not uncommon to have some cognitive decline, researchers at Northwestern are looking at a specific group of elderly, called "super agers" that even though they are past 80, have the memory and brain health of someone in their 50s. Scientists at Northwestern are using brain scans and memory assessments to see if they can find out the reason some of these old folks have the mental acuity of much younger people.
Brain imaging does show that in super agers, there is less shrinkage in the brain. They've also found that most super agers are outgoing and social, making lots of plans with friends and going to events in the community. It's believed that this social engagement is a factor in keeping the brain young. While many studies on aging, dementia and Alzheimer's look at patients who already have problems, to find out what's wrong, Northwestern is attempting to figure out what it is that super agers are doing right.