Study finds older adults are mentally and physically younger than ever

A newly published study from the University of Jyväskylä has found that present-day older adults are mentally and physically younger than those of similar age who lived just 30 years ago. The researchers focused on adults ages 75 to 80 and compared data on their cognitive and physical performance with the same data on adults in the same age group from the 1990s, finding that everything from strength to working memory and even walking speed are ‘significantly better’ in modern elderly populations.

It’s no secret that one’s ability to function begins to diminish rapidly during one’s elderly years, leading to frailty and increased dependency on others. However, a variety of factors in modern times are influencing this in a positive way, slowing down the rate of loss of function and therefore prolonging how long one may be able to remain independent.

A number of factors influence the improvements observed in the modern generation compared to the generation that was the same age three decades ago. Longer amounts of time spent in education and improved access to education has helped older adults keep a younger cognitive performance, for example, while things like improved nutrition, hygiene, health care, better working conditions, and similar have led to better physical performance in one’s golden years.

One of the researchers behind the project, postdoctoral researchers Matti Manukka, explained:

The cohort of 75- and 80-year-olds born later has grown up and lived in a different world than did their counterparts born three decades ago. There have been many favourable changes. These include better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in health care and the school system, better accessibility to education and improved working life.

The findings are reassuring as people around the world increasingly live to older ages, indicating that such increases in lifespan are also accompanied by general increases in how long someone remains a functional, independent adult. With that said, aging does eventually have its impact and as people live to more advanced years, their need for care from others will similarly increase in their final years, potentially adding extra burdens to public healthcare.

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