Everyone ages differently. Some people suffer from dementia at a relatively early age while others seem to have the cognitive abilities of young adults while at a very advanced age. Scientists may have discovered what makes the difference.
There are some elderly people who seem to keep on going long after most of their peers have begun to lose their cognitive abilities. There are people who even into their 80s and 90s can think just as quickly as much younger people. Researchers refer to these people as "superagers."
The group is defined as elderly people who have the same cognitive abilities as 25 year olds. However, this is a relatively small group.
Most elderly people will suffer from some form of cognitive impairment and, of course, many suffer from outright dementia.
Medical researchers have been searching for possible reasons why the superagers are so different from most of their peers.
The New York Times reports that a possible reason might have been found in "How to Become a 'Superager'."
In a small study, researchers conducted MRIs of some superagers and peers of the same age. The images revealed that superagers brains are thicker in some regions, which suggests more and stronger brain activity.
Interestingly, the differences are not in regions of the brain that are associated with cognitive functions. Instead, the differences are in brain regions associated with emotional functioning.
This study suggests that the key to becoming a superager is to continue to work hard. The emotional regions of the brain are activated and strengthened, when people strain themselves mentally or physically.
The idea is to work until you are tired and frustrated.
While this research is new and small, it does offer some hope for elderly people.
Reference: New York Times (Dec. 13, 2016) "How to Become a 'Superager'."