Study: Mental Performance Improving for Those Over 90

Thursday, 11 Jul 2013 04:41 PM

By Courtney Coren

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A new study finds that the mental performance of those who make it to age 90 is significantly better than those who reached 90 a decade ago.

The Lancet science journal released a study Thursday conducted in Denmark that looked at two groups of nonagenarians -- those who are in their 90s -- who lived a decade apart from each other, one group that was born in 1915 compared to a group that was born in 1905, USA Today reports.

The purpose of the study was to look at the cognitive and physical functioning of the two groups of people who lived in high-income countries and who survived into their tenth decade.

The 1915 group scored significantly better when it came to mental functioning and cognitive ability. The 1915 group also had a 32 percent greater chance of reaching 95 years than the 1905 group.

The researchers even adjusted the scores for increases in education for those born in 1915 and they "still performed better in the cognitive measures, which suggests that changes in other factors such as nutrition, burden of infectious disease, work environment, intellectual stimulation and general living conditions also play an important part in the improvement of cognitive functioning."

The researchers say that the study challenges the conventional wisdom that longer life spans are "the result of the survival of very frail and disabled elderly people," according to Kaare Christensen, the lead researcher and professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and director of the Danish Aging Research Center.

"That's not to say that everyone in the later cohort was healthy, smart and functioning well, but compared to those who were born 10 years earlier, not only were more living to a higher age, but they were functioning better," Christensen says.

The researchers looked at 2,262 men and women who were born in 1905 and were assessed in 1998 between the ages of 92 and 93. The 1915 nonagenarians were a smaller group at 1,584 men and women and were assessed in 2010 between the ages of 94 and 95.

"If this development were to continue, the future functional problems and care needs of very elderly people might be less than are anticipated on the basis of the present-day burden of disability," the study concludes.



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