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90-Year-Olds Today Sharper Than Previous Generation, Study Finds

Published: August 2, 2013

A large Danish study of nonagenarians finds that people born in 1915 not only lived longer than those born a decade earlier, but they also retained a higher level of both their cognitive and physical abilities.

To address the concerns of future care needs for the “Silver Tsunami,” a team of Danish researchers investigated the health status of seniors over the age of 90.  Using the Danish Civil Register System, the team identified all nonagenarians living in Denmark at the time that they were conducting their surveys.

Two groups of nonagenarians were given cognitive and physical assessments. The first cohort included a total of 2,262 nonagenarians born in 1905. This cohort was assessed in 1998 when they were ages 92 to 93. The second group consisted of 1,584 seniors born in 1915, and were assessed in 2010 when they were ages 94 to 95.

The 1915 cohort scored notably better on the cognitive test than the 1905 group, with a significantly higher proportion of participants achieving perfect scores (23 percent vs. 13 percent). The researchers also found that the odds of living to age 93 were 28 percent higher in the 1915 cohort than in the 1905 cohort, and the chance of reaching 95 years was 32 percent higher in 1915 cohort.

The two groups recorded similar results in the physical performance exams, but the 1915 cohort scored significantly higher on tests measuring ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL).

Despite being 2 years older at the time of the assessment, the 1915 cohort’s cognitive and ADL test scores suggest that more people are living to older ages with better overall functioning.

“There’s a fear that getting older means many years of living in bad shape with a rather gloomy outlook,” said lead researcher Kaare Christensen. “I’m looking forward to living longer than 90 myself after this study.”

Article can be found at:http://www.alfa.org/News/3314/90-Year-Olds-Today-Sharper-Than-Previous-Generation,-Study-Finds