Last night, if you were watching the 9 o’clock nightly news, you might have noticed a spry, good-looking older gal cruising the shops of downtown Chicago. And then, if you continued watching, you would have learned that that older woman was, in fact, 85 years old.
According to a study taking place at Northwestern University, 85-year-old Barb Shaeffer falls under the category of superager – men and women in their 80s or older who exhibit remarkable memory and energy for their age.
Since discovering this category of age-defiance, Northwestern researchers examined 12 individuals from the Chicago area who fit the superager criteria. Ranging from age 80 to 90, these seniors delivered brain scans that looked more like a middle-aged person’s than someone pushing 90 or older.
As we’ve discussed in many of our blogs here at Freedom Home Care, memory loss or a decrease in cognitive functioning are normal signs of aging. However, “understanding why some elderly people avoid that degeneration could lead to a breakthrough in treating and preventing memory loss,” Emily Rogalski, a Northwestern professor on the research team, said in an article published by Courant.com.
One of the most interesting portions of the study is that its participants weren’t all retired doctors or individuals whose IQs were always off the charts. They were normal everyday seniors. And actually, only four of the 12 had a college degree. What this shows is that anyone has the potential for being a superager.
Don Goldsmith, one of the superagers from the study is 83. He’s from Highland Park, and he stays quite active. He teaches a class about baseball history to other seniors and is a big White Sox fan. In addition to traveling to visit his family, he also plays tennis and golf.
So with people like Goldsmith and Schaeffer right in our very own backyard, we here at Freedom Home Care will make it a point to stay abreast of where Northwestern’s findings take them. As of now, they are still making heads and tails of what these superagers can teach us about aging.