Most gerontological analysis suggests that people are living longer and healthier than ever before. A similar trend is observable with respect to mental health statistics.
In fact, new findings published in The Journals of Gerontology determined that the average senior citizen (between the ages of 75 and 85) maintains their physical and mental health for much longer than the seniors assessed 30 years ago.
The authors began their research by coupling data on 500 people born between 1910 and 1914 with a group of 726 seniors who were the same age in 2017 or 2018.
The health records of seniors today revealed dramatic increases in muscle strength, walking speed, reaction speed, verbal fluency, reasoning, and working memory compared to seniors of the past.
“Whether increased life expectancy is accompanied by increased functional capacity in older people at specific ages is unclear. We compared similar validated measures of maximal physical performance in two population-based older cohorts born and assessed 28 years apart,” the authors wrote. “The later cohort showed markedly and meaningfully higher results in the maximal functional capacity tests, suggesting that currently 75- and 80-year old people in Finland are living to older ages nowadays with better physical functioning. Walking speed was on average 0.2-0.4 m/s faster in the later than earlier cohort. In grip strength, the improvements were 5-25%, and in knee extension strength 20-47%. In FVC, the improvements were 14-21% and in FEV1 0-14%.”
Lung function was the only biomarker that has not improved in the years examined in the report.
A health comparison of 75- and 80-year-old men and women born 28 years apart
Although older populations require more medical attention in the 21st century as they near centenarian status, health complications linked with aging are occurring later and later in life.
Advancements in science and technology are essentially stretching middle-age. The principal factors are as follows:
–Increased nutrition and hygiene awareness
–Improvements in health care and school systems
–Better accessibility to education
-Improved working life
“The results suggest that our understanding of older age is old-fashioned. From an aging researcher’s point of view, more years are added to midlife, and not so much to the utmost end of life. Increased life expectancy provides us with more non-disabled years, but at the same time, the last years of life come at higher and higher ages, increasing the need for care,” the authors added.
“This research is unique because there are only a few studies in the world that have compared performance-based maximum measures between people of the same age in different historical times.”
Changes in diet and exercise norms are seeing middle-age communities live healthier for longer while delaying degenerative conditions that typically attends old age.
“Higher physical activity and increased body size explained the better walking speed and muscle strength among the later-born cohort,” doctoral student Kaisa Koivunen explained in a release. “The most important underlying factor behind the cohort differences in cognitive performance was longer education.”
The new study, titled Cohort differences in maximal physical performance: a comparison of 75- and 80-year-old men and women born 28 years apart, was authored by Kaisa Koivunen, MSc, Elina Sillanpää, PhD, Matti Munukka, PhD, Erja Portegijs, PhD, Taina Rantanen, PhD