Tag Archives: ageing

Nine Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Longevity

By study­ing the world’s Blue Zones–“com­munit­ies whose eld­ers live with vim and vig­or to record-set­ting age”–Dan Buettner and team dis­covered a set of com­mon beha­vi­our­al traits in their sub­jects.

In his TEDxTC talk Buettner dis­cusses what he dis­covered to be the myths of liv­ing longer and the nine com­mon diet and life­style habits of those who live to be act­ive at 100+:

  • Exer­cise Nat­ur­ally: They don’t con­sciously exer­cise – rather, daily phys­ic­al exer­cise was a nat­ur­al part of their lives (walk­ing, using stairs, cyc­ling for trans­port, etc.).
  • Down­shift: They live a simple life.
  • Have a Pur­pose: Know­ing and act­ing with pur­pose and hav­ing a high­er goal leads to around a sev­en year increase in life expect­ancy.
  • Mod­er­ate Alco­hol Intake: I’ve dis­cussed this at length before.
  • Plant-Based Diet: Not a veget­ari­an diet, but a largely plant-based one.
  • No Over­eat­ing: They avoid over­eat­ing, typ­ic­ally by using ‘nudges’.
  • Friends and Fam­ily First: They typ­ic­ally think of their close friends and fam­ily first.
  • Belong to a Faith-Based Com­munity: Belong­ing to a faith-based com­munity, and meet­ing on aver­age four times a month, can add four to four­teen years to one’s life. Does this exclude athe­ists? I don’t see why a human­ist com­munity that meets the same rules (meet­ing reg­u­larly) would be dif­fer­ent.
  • Belong to the Right ‘Tribe’: They sur­round them­selves with the ‘right’ people. By doing so they pre­vent get­ting bad habits through social net­work effects (also dis­cussed pre­vi­ously).

via Dav­id DiS­alvo

More on the Cognitive Benefits of Moderate Exercise

“There is over­whelm­ing evid­ence that exer­cise pro­duces large cog­nit­ive gains and helps fight demen­tia”, says the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity psy­cho­lo­gist John Ratey, author of the 2008 book on the sub­ject, Spark.

While Ratey pro­pounds the “very clear” link between exer­cise and men­tal acu­ity, say­ing that even mod­er­ate exer­cise pushes back cog­nit­ive decline by “any­where from 10 to 15 years”, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health are more cau­tious:

Look­ing at redu­cing the risk of “cog­nit­ive decline in older adults,” [the NIH] wrote: “Pre­lim­in­ary evid­ence sug­gests a bene­fi­cial asso­ci­ation of phys­ic­al activ­ity and a range of leis­ure activ­it­ies (e.g., club mem­ber­ship, reli­gious ser­vices, paint­ing, garden­ing) with the pre­ser­va­tion of cog­nit­ive func­tion.” A few small stud­ies showed that “increased phys­ic­al activ­ity may help main­tain or improve cog­nit­ive func­tion in nor­mal adults”.

I’ve writ­ten before about the extens­ive cog­nit­ive bene­fits of exer­cise, but as Noah Gray (via) says, “it nev­er hurts to rein­force the mes­sage”.

Ability to Inhibit Prejudices Diminishes with Age

As we age we become less able to inhib­it pre­ju­diced infer­ences, rely­ing more on eth­nic and sex­ist ste­reo­types to inter­pret situ­ations, research into the sci­ence of pre­ju­dice sug­gests.

There are a lot of clichés thrown around about the eld­erly, but one that seems to be true—or at least is backed up by research—is the belief they tend to be more pre­ju­diced than young­er people. This phenomenon—noted in The New York Times as early as 1941—is widely assumed to be the res­ult of social­iz­a­tion. After all, today’s seni­or cit­izens grew up in an era when racism was wide­spread and gays stayed in the closet. Of course they aren’t as open-minded as their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

A dec­ade ago, a research team led by Wil­li­am von Hip­pel of the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land chal­lenged that assump­tion. The psy­cho­lo­gists pro­posed that older people may exhib­it great­er pre­ju­dice because they have dif­fi­culty inhib­it­ing the ste­reo­types that reg­u­larly get activ­ated in all of our brains. They sug­ges­ted an aging brain is not as effect­ive in sup­press­ing unwanted information—including ste­reo­types.

Mat­thew Yglesi­as recently noted that cur­rent mar­riage equal­ity accept­ance in the U.S. decreases with age, sug­gest­ing that equal mar­riage rights are inev­it­able as the older gen­er­a­tions cease to have vot­ing power and/or die. When I con­sider this in light of the above, how­ever, I won­der if this really is the case?

via Intel­li­gent Life

The abstracts of the two papers dis­cussed in this article: Ste­reo­type Activ­a­tion, Inhib­i­tion, and Aging and Aging and Ste­reo­type Sup­pres­sion.

The Exponential Growth of Death

I was recently read­ing about super­cen­t­en­ari­ans–people that have lived to the age of 110 or above–and read the fol­low­ing stat­ist­ic:

[Reach­ing] the age of 110 years [is] some­thing achieved by only one in a thou­sand cen­ten­ari­ans (based on European data). Fur­ther­more, only 1 in 50 super­cen­t­en­ari­ans lives to be 115 (1 in 50,000 cen­ten­ari­ans).

Fas­cin­ated by this expo­nen­tial increase in death rates, I recalled read­ing about the Gompertz–Makeham law of mor­tal­ity, and how the prob­ab­il­ity of dying doubles fairly evenly every eight years.

What do you think are the odds that you will die dur­ing the next year? Try to put a num­ber to it — 1 in 100? 1 in 10,000? Whatever it is, it will be twice as large 8 years from now.

This start­ling fact was first noticed by the Brit­ish actu­ary Ben­jamin Gom­pertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gom­pertz Law of human mor­tal­ity.” Your prob­ab­il­ity of dying dur­ing a giv­en year doubles every 8 years. For me, a 25-year-old Amer­ic­an, the prob­ab­il­ity of dying dur­ing the next year is a fairly min­is­cule 0.03% — about 1 in 3,000. When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on. By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the prob­ab­il­ity of liv­ing to 101 will only be about 50%.

via Kot­tke

Elderly Becoming Redundant

If the eld­erly are mostly recog­nised and val­ued for their accu­mu­lated know­ledge and skills (a con­ten­tious assump­tion in itself, gran­ted), then tech­no­lo­gic­al advances are gradu­ally mak­ing the older gen­er­a­tions redund­ant, sug­gests Philip Green­spun.

Let’s start by con­sid­er­ing fac­tu­al know­ledge. An old per­son will know more than a young per­son, but can any per­son, young or old, know as much as Google and Wiki­pe­dia? Why would a young per­son ask an eld­er the answer to a fact ques­tion that can be solved author­it­at­ively in 10 seconds with a Web search?

How about skills? Want help ori­ent­ing a rooftop tele­vi­sion aer­i­al? Chan­ging the vacu­um tubes in your TV? Dial­ing up AOL? Using MS-DOS? Chan­ging the rib­bon on an IBM Selec­tric (height of 1961 tech­no­logy)? Tun­ing up a car that lacks elec­tron­ic engine con­trols? Doing your taxes without con­sid­er­ing the Altern­at­ive Min­im­um Tax and the tens of thou­sands of pages of rules that have been added since our seni­or cit­izen was start­ing his career? Didn’t think so.

The same tech­no­lo­gic­al pro­gress that enables our soci­ety to keep an ever-lar­ger per­cent­age of old folk­s’ bod­ies going has sim­ul­tan­eously reduced the value of the minds with­in those bod­ies.

Sug­ges­tions for “main­tain­ing rel­ev­ance and value in old age” are grate­fully being received on Philip’s post.