90-Year-Olds Better Off Now Than Those Born 10 Years Earlier
July 11, 2013

90-Year-Olds Better Off Now Than Those Born 10 Years Earlier

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study published in The Lancet claims people are living longer than those who were born as early as a decade earlier. These senior citizens aren't just living longer, either; they're staying mentally sharp into their later years as well.

After observing and surveying a group of adults born in 1915, the researchers claimed these people's quality of life and mental sharpness were greater than those who were born in 1905. They point to factors such as better living standards, intellectual stimulation and nutrition as reasons for this change.

All told, the study found those born in 1915 had a 28 percent greater chance of surviving to age 93. The chances increased in their favor as they got older too, with the chance of the same group of people reaching 95 years old being 32 percent higher.

Though this study points towards longevity, it also suggests that 90-year-olds of the future might not need the same kind of health care as 90-year-olds of today.

"There's a fear that getting older means many years of living in bad shape with a rather gloomy outlook," Kaare Christensen, the lead study researcher from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, explained to Bloomberg's Allison Connolly. "I'm looking forward to living longer than 90 myself after this study."

Christensen and crew accounted for increases in education in other factors when they carried out this large-scale study on people born in 1905 and those born in 1915. Yet even with these adjustments, the study still showed that the test subjects born in 1915 outperformed their seniors in cognitive and physical tests.

"That's not to say that everyone in the later cohort was healthy, smart and functioning well, but compared to those who were born 10 years earlier, not only were more living to a higher age, but they were functioning better," Christensen told Michelle Healy of USA Today.

The study began in 1998 when Christensen and team began poring through the Danish Civil Register System in search of all Danish citizens who were born in 1905 and 1915. They ended up with a total of 2,262 men and women born in 1905 and a lesser 1,584 who were born in 1915. The team first assessed those born in 1905. As they performed this part of their research in 1998, these participants were aged 92 and 93. They began surveying those born in 1915 in 2010, placing the group at 94 and 95.

It's important to note that no participant was turned away for this study due to mental or physical handicaps. If the participant could not complete a portion of the survey on their own, which included both cognitive and physical dexterity tests, a caretaker would help them complete it. The physical part of the test included measuring grip strength, standing up from sitting in a chair and how quickly they walked. The mental portion of the test included measuring verbal memory, word fluency and attention span.

The authors of the study say their results should be used to overhaul the way our elderly are looked after and health care in the later years.

"If this development were to continue, the future functional problems and care needs of very elderly people might be less than are anticipated on the basis of the present-day burden of disability," reads the study.