Are You a Potential SuperAger?

Would you like to be a SuperAger? I sure would. Alas, we Baby Boomers do not yet qualify—one has to be over 80 years of age.

The term SuperAger comes from Northwestern University’s SuperAging Research Project (https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/26/health/superager-secrets-good-memory-wellness/index.html). A SuperAger is a person whose brain physiologically is similar to someone’s who is 20-30 years younger. As stated, they are over 80 and they have the cognitive function of a person in their 60’s.

Their brain’s physical characteristics include a cortex (thinking, decision making, & memory) that “remains thicker and shrinks more slowly than people in their 50’s and 60’s.” Also, the cells in the entorhinal cortex are bigger and healthier than the usual 80+ year old person’s. This is the region of the brain where Alzheimer’s hits.

These folks also have terrific episodic memories. Episodic memory is the memory of everyday events (such as times, location geography, associated emotions, and other contextual information) that can be explicitly stated or conjured. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at particular times and places; for example, the party on one’s 7th birthday.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Episodic_memory. Ok, I don’t remember my seventh birthday party, but I do remember most of my seventh grade teachers (Mrs. Bishop/English/social studies, Mr. Boston/science, Mr. Read/math, Mr. Brent/spelling, Madame Voyonovich/French)—will that count?

There appears to be no difference in intelligence levels between SuperAgers and the rest of the research group.

Only 10% of the people who have joined this research project qualify as SuperAgers. They also share some similar traits:

  • Physically active
  • Displaying a positive disposition
  • Challenging their brain everyday by reading or learning something new
  • Often continuing to work into their 80’s
  • Having lots of social connections.

Being a SuperAger seems like a pretty positive idea to me. I began to wonder if the digital world might have a beneficial role in helping us to age well.  I have taken the common characteristics of the SuperAgers and brainstormed some ways technology can supplement the everyday/face-to-face activities of these superstars.

Staying physically active

1. YouTube is chock full of videos from a variety of sources that will get us moving. Here’s one from Silver Sneakers.

Here’s another example from Walk at Home Aerobics

2. Apps for our phones, tablets, and watches

  • Count your daily steps with a digital pedometer.
  • Set activity goals in your health and wellness apps.
  • Track bike your bike rides with apps like Strava or Map My Ride.

3. Exercise equipment often come with high tech programs that include personal trainers. Examples include NordicTrak and Peloton.

Displaying a positive disposition

Forty years ago, Norman Cousins  was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. He wasn’t ready to give up so he devised  his own recovery protocol that revolved around humor. It worked. This article describes his experience and demonstrates the power of positivity. https://tinyurl.com/ybjx2wpn

Here are a few ideas for maintaining our positive approach to life

  • Funny videos 
  • Church services that emphasize positive approaches to life rather than fire and brimstone.
  • Online opportunities to do good An example is KIVA where small loans change lives.  https://www.kiva.org/
  • Inspirational presentations like TED Talks.  Why Having Fun Is the Secret to a Healthier Life.

*** Social media can work against this a positive mind set if one get sucked into groups that thrive on negativity and controversy. We need to be selective in what we engage in on social media.

Learning to Do  Something New

  • “How to’s” on YouTube–Is there anything you can’t learn to do on YouTube? It’s one of the largest search engines on the internet. Make your own wine? Build a tree house? Improve your pickleball game?  If you want to learn a new skill–check out YouTube.
  • Opportunities to blog. Several friends have used blogging to document their travels and experiences while at the same time keeping in touch with friends and family. Here’s an article that gives detail about many of the popular blogging sites: https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/how-to-choose-the-best-blogging-platform/
  • Listen to podcasts. Just google the topic you are interested in plus the word “podcast.” You will find possibilities.
  • Learn a new language. DuoLingo is a free app that will help you review or learn a new language.
  • Take a virtual museum tour. Thanks to COVID, many of the world’s museums now have online tours of their exhibits on their websites. https://www.louvre.fr/en/online-tours
  • Access books online. As long as we can access the internet, we never need to be without a myriad of choices of books to read.
  • Take an online courses. Again, the possibilities are nearly endless. BoomerTECH Adventures offers course related to Apple devices. https://boomertechadventures.com/shop/

Continue to work

  • Again, thanks to COVID, working from home is often a possibility for folks. Avoiding tiresome commutes is an impetus to working beyond the usual retirement age.
  • Starting a business–many baby boomers are starting a business after retirement. Check out https://babyboomer.org/. This venture was conceived and built by baby boomers looking for a new challenge.

Maintain and build new social connections

  • Using social media to connect with family and friends.
  • We all learned to Zoom during COVID. No reason to give up those sessions now. Have you connected with high school or college friends recently? The years melt away when sharing memories, even in the digital world.
  • Join groups with similar interests–photography, birding, history, and so on.

It seems to me there are a myriad of ways that our digital world can be a positive influence in our aging process.

Me at 100 according to the AgingBooth app (-:

Glad to see I still have all of my teeth!

I certainly aspire to be a SuperAger and as an advocate of the power of the digital world I’m setting a couple of goals for today:

  • Respond to some texts from old friends and family members.
  • Go back to DuoLingo and find out what I remember from my high school French classes (Thank you Miss Waters, Mr. Allen, and Madame Neufeld).
  • Get off my fanny and do an online Silver Sneakers workout since it’s too wet to walk outside.

Here’s to the SuperAgers—may we all aspire to join this privileged group.

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