We are all living longer and we don’t know quite why. It has always been the dream of mankind to live forever. Since the start of the 20th century we have increased life expectancy in this country by a remarkable 30 years from living till 49 years old in the 1800s to almost 79 today. I’m sure we can all think of many reasons why we are living longer and it has created a whole new group of people that really never existed before. It is possible that we can join the over 90 year old crowd. They are the oldest of the old. People over 90 years old are the fastest growing group of the U.S. population.
What is interesting is that very little is known about these really old people. What determines if we are going to reach over 90 years old? What kind of shape will we be in if we do get to be that old? There is only one research study called 90+that is even attempting to figure out the longevity of these remarkable people. I find this very interesting and would like to know, to have a heads up, a lead of sorts to know what I can possibly do to live the only life I have or that I know of to the fullest.
The researchers stumbled upon a great find. A place where senior citizens have been living in the past 40 years and not dying. This is one old age facility where the residents actually did grow older and not just be a place where the ambulances lineup to take the dead bodies away. The retirement community was once called Leisure World, a place where you cannot live if you are younger than 52 years old located 45 miles south of Los Angeles. The place is still a retirement community where many of the people living there have been there for the past 40 years. Who do you know that has lived with your neighbors for 40 years? The place has grown into a city called Laguna Woods. They did not like the name Leisure World because they consider themselves to be quite active.
Doctor Claudia Kawas is a neurologist and professor at UC Irvine who discovered a gold mine of information when she realized there are 40 years of medical records stored at that facility for many people over age 90. There was a major survey given to residents there back in 1981 that include data about their diet, exercise, vitamins and activities. The only thing they were not questioned about was their sex life. 14,000 people answered the questionaire. The National Institute of Health answered her request for funding and granted her 6 million dollars to find out who had died and when they died and asked those over 90 years old to participate in a new survey.
More than over 1,600 people were over age 90. This study is tracking people for balance, reflexes, how they walk, how fast they can stand up and sit down and most importantly, how their minds are working. They are given hour long cognitive memory tests. The people find the tests fun and interesting. Many are World War II veterans and most are able to drive or take themselves to be interviewed. The elderly in the best condition are those who keep active, walk a few miles a day, use a computer and who are social.
Genes contribute to longevity but is not necessarily the key factor. Being able to look back at the medical history from 40 years ago has led to a wealth of published findings that tell the story about behaviors that lead to a long and healthy life. So here is the verdict: it is no surprise that smokers died before others so obviously, stop lighting up. People who exercise definitely live longer than people who sat around. As little as 15 minutes a day of exercise was significant in over qll improved mobility. One of the favorite activities at the place is dancing. So get out there and shake it up on the dance floor.
Non- physical activities like book clubs, socializing with friends, board or card games is extremely important to overall happiness and longevity. Keeping busy and stimulated is very important. Goals and appointments keep the mind sharp. These older people were too busy having fun with their life rather than worrying about their health. Amazingly, vitamin intake did not make a difference. Most of these old people maintain taking a glass of wine or cocktail every day. Really? Let me get some wine now; I want to live longer.
Moderate alcohol is associated with living longer. Up to two drinks a day lead to a 10 to 15% reduced risk of death, compared to nondrinkers. WOW!!
Any kind of alcohol seemed to do the trick. There is good news for coffee drinkers.
Caffeine intake equivalent to one to three cups of coffee per day was better than more or none.
If you are concerned about weight problems. As you age, if you put on a few more pounds it is better for your overall health. At least maintain your weight, try not to lose too much pounds. It is not good to be skinny when you are old. Being obese will never be good and being obese as a younger person was not good but the older people put on a few extra pounds.
Living a long time is not all that important if we’re not going to be all there to enjoy it. Alzheimer's and dementia is an area of the study that proved some new amazing findings. By the year 2050 experts estimate that the amount of people living over age 90 will quadruple but will we lose our mind in the process? The risk of losing our mind doubles every five years after age 65 and keeps on doubling. That means we’re going to have more people suffering from Alseimers and dementia over age 90 than we currently have lower. There is no blood test or x-ray that can tell us. We can only document and notice a gradual forgetfulness of everything. The most devastating fact is that we will know that we have lost our mind. The knowledge of knowing that you are forgetting things is devastating giving you terrible frustration.
Definitively Alseimers can only be determined and definitely known by examining the brain after death. Many over 90 people have agreed to donate their brains to science after death. The study has been granted an additional 5 years of funding to explore after death further. Meanwhile what have we learned? I learned to enjoy life more, have some wine, dance, a cup of coffee put on only a few pounds live long.