Today's 90-year-olds are ageing better
Published on 11 July 2013 11:30 AM
Today's nonagenarians are defying the ageing process to enjoy unprecedented mental performance, according to a new report.
People born in 1915 fared better in cognitive tests in their 90s compared with those born 10 years previously, said the Danish study.
It attributes the improvement to better living standards and intellectual stimulation.
The amount of adults reaching extremely advanced age is increasing worldwide.
For example, the number of US people aged at least 90 has more than doubled in 3 decades.
The odds of Danes surviving into the 10th decade of life has risen by around 30% each decade for people born in 1895, 1905 and 1915.
But there has been scant research into the quality of life that people reaching this age can look forward to.
Research suggests 90-year-olds are functioning better
The study, headed by Prof Kaare Christensen, of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, polled all Danes born in 1905 who were still living and resident in the country in 1998 (3,600 people, aged 92-93).
They analysed their mental functions, physical strength, ability to undertake day-to-day living tasks such as walking inside and outside, and any signs of depression.
Twelve years on, they repeated the research with Danes born in 1915.
This amounted to 2,509 people aged 94-95.
Researchers discovered that adults born in 1915 did better than those born in 1905 in terms of cognitive ability and activities of daily living, even after adjusting for changes such as improved education.
Prof Christensen and his team said: 'Our results show that the Danish cohort born in 1915 had better survival and scored significantly better on both the cognitive tests and the activities of daily living scale than the cohort born in 1905, despite being 2 years older at the time of assessment.'
They said the results suggest that more people are living to older ages with better overall functioning, not just mental performance.
The study addresses the vital question of whether surviving into very old age is accompanied by more years of poor health, or whether general health at an advanced age is getting better.
The results are published in the latest edition of The Lancet journal.
Copyright Press Association 2013