Ageing Well By Cultivating And Maintaining Friendships
Ageing well depends on being social and maintaining friendships, according to researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. They found a link between brain health and positive relationships.
For the past nine years, these scientists have been examining “SuperAgers”, men and women over age 80 whose memories are as good or better than people 20 to 30 years younger. Periodically, the group fills out surveys about their lives and gets a battery of neuropsychological tests. These include brain scans and a neurological examination.
Thirty-one older men and women with exceptional memories, mostly from Illinois and surrounding states, are currently participating in the project.
Ageing: Previous SuperAger Research Results
Previous research by the Northwestern group showed that SuperAgers have distinctive brain features: thicker cortex, a resistance to age-related atrophy, and a larger left anterior part of the brain important for attention and working memory.
Ageing: Current Results
In their new study, researchers asked 31 SuperAgers and 19 cognitively “normal” older adults to fill out a 42-item questionnaire about their psychological well-being. The SuperAgers stood out in one area: the degree to which they reported having satisfying, warm, trusting relationships. In other areas, such as having a purpose in life or retaining autonomy, they were much like their “normal” peers.
These findings are consistent with other research linking positive relationships to a reduced risk of cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia. Next on the agenda, researchers will examine how SuperAgers sustain these relationships and whether their experiences might include lessons for others.