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.