Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago have been studying what they call “super-agers”. They were studying what makes people live longer, stay mentally and physically fit even as they reach old age. What makes this study even more interesting is that many of the “super-agers” maintained their vices throughout their long lives!
The researchers followed their group for many years. They wanted to know the secret to a long, fulfilling and active life. The first thing researchers found was that the super-agers did not necessarily live a clean, healthy lifestyle. Over two-thirds of the group smoked and over 80% drank regularly.
The scientists found an intriguing link very early on in their studies. Emily Rogalski is a professor of cognitive neurology and took part in the study. She described the traits that all super-agers have in this way, “a unique personality, high optimism, resilience and perseverance and an active lifestyle”.
Tim Drake is an author who has studied staying young and he says that super-agers have “a positive mental attitude (which is) probably the most important thing in keeping young”. To put it more bluntly, Drake says “You can keep learning and keep growing, or you can start dying. In some ways, it’s as simple as that.” Drake is seventy-three and enjoys the company of much young people (including his mid-30s daughters and their friends) rather than the company of people his own age. He refuses to retire and feels he continues to have purpose in his life.
Last year, I wrote a column about the incredible Seesee” Rigney who, at ninety-one, is still nursing. Actor David Attenborough is in the process of working on a new wildlife television series at the age of 92. Ninety-six year old Iris Apfel is a working fashion designer. British authors Diana Athill (who is one hundred years old) and Edna O’Brien (who is eighty-seven years old) still write and are still commercially successful.
Tim Drake says that he believes you can stay young by remaining connected and positive. He believes that socializing (including having drinks with friends) keeps you young. Another way to keep young according to Drake is to give of yourself: volunteer, help a loved-one; in his words “recharge yourself by thinking of others”
Since reading about this study, I have noticed many older people still in the work force here in Prince Albert – people who are past the “age of retirement”. And I agree with the researchers that they all act and seem younger than they are, and that they have a positive outlook on life. I hear a lot of laughter and see a lot of smiles. If this is how one fights old-age, then I think we should all start practicing positivity, gratitude and compassion now and reap the benefits when we are older.