Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 14th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 14, 2015
If you ve ever hoped to age flawlessly, inspiration
may come in the form of SuperAgers: people aged
80 and older who have memories as sharp as those
of healthy folks decades younger.
With funding from the National Institute on Aging
and the Davee Foundation, Emily J Rogalski, PhD, and
a team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Medicine have found a select group of people whose
brains simply don t appear to suffer that ravishes of
time that researchers many times see.
SuperAgers, instead, appear to have three things in
common: a thicker region of a brain area called the
cortex; significantly fewer tangles (which are a big
marker of Alzheimer s), and a higher-than-average
supply of a neuron called von Economo, which is asso-
ciated with "higher social intelligence".
Every year or so, SuperAgers in the Northwestern
study complete cognitive testing. They also completed
questionnaires about their personality, life---high and
low points, and moments of wisdom.
"We hope that IDing factors of what these people
have in common will help us understand Alzheimer s,
dementia, and normal aging," says Rogalski. "Right
now, we are helping people live longer---life expectancy
is increasing, but the quality of life in old age is not
following that same pace. We want to help improve
But is it possible? Does the "SuperAging" process
come down to lifestyle or biology? It could be both.
While there appears to be a clear biological difference
in the brains of SuperAgers and other aging people,
SuperAgers "tend to be really active in their commu-
nities," Rogalski says. Several still work, and many are
involved in social groups.
Of course, it s too soon to say that an active lifestyle
can lead to the brain of a SuperAger---but time and
time again, research points to the idea that the bigger
your social network, the healthier you are.
Beyond that, the "typical" healthy lifestyle doesn t
seem to apply to SuperAgers. "People s diets vary;
some exercise, some don t; some like martinis, some
don t; overall, though, they re active participants in
life---and activity can be measured in different ways."
Rogalski also adds: "They re a delight and they re
We were lucky enough to catch up with two. Here s
what they had to say.
Don Tenbrunsel, 87
On traditional diet and exercise
"I am very grateful. I m 87 years old and my memory
is as good as it ever was and I have no particular joy
in saying, Oh good---look, I didn t eat too many sweets.
I m about normal in terms of height and weight. My
diet is not very good, but I do watch the weight so
I don t get too heavy. I also walk a lot---wherever I
can. I don t know that I have done anything in particular
in my life diet-wise or exercise-wise or career-wise
that would say, Oh boy, that gave me such a good
"If anything, I have always been extraordinarily curi-
ous---that has good days and bad days, of course! I m
interested in almost anything. Perhaps that s what
keeps my brain sharp---it s working all the time. I have
traveled fairly extensively in the past 15 to 20 years.
I went to Israel in November. I ve been to China and
Russia and Vietnam and Thailand and a lot of Europe.
I m interested in seeing the differences in cultures."
On how he keeps his brain sharp
"I like doing fast mathematics in my head---not cal-
culus, just simple math or remembering a song from
1940. I remember when I was a youngster, people
would turn to me and say, Don what are the words
to that song? and I always knew the words. I always
loved music, but hey, there were some memory things
back when I was little too!"
On his day-to-day
"I am retired. I do a fair amount of volunteer work,
about three days a week. I live with my daughter, her
husband, and their three kids and have for a while.
I was the original babysitter! That s given me a nice,
positive outlook on life---is that a factor helping my
memory? I doubt it, but it feels good. I spend time
at Barnes and Noble too and read some of the latest
excerpts or full books---that s something I enjoy a lot.
I m a churchgoer."
'SuperAgers' share their stay
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Exercise is one of the key
factors in staying fit in old
age. PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA
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