What does it take to be a SuperAger? It’s very simple, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. That’s it, but 90% of us are unwilling or unable to do it. It takes dedication of physical achievement and continuously pushing your limits. Think high intensity interval training, but when you’re 60 or 70 or 80 no one wants to do that, right? Well, if you want to have a better memory and stay more alert you better start. Or, you can choose a mental feat, something like learning a new language or learning how to play an instrument. SuperAger, a term coined by neurologist Marsel Mesulam, is someone who is at least 80 years old and has the memory of someone 30-50 years younger.
In a recent article in the New York Times about a study done at Massachusetts General Hospital, 17 SuperAgers brains were compared to people in their 20’s & 30’s. To the researchers surprise, the normal mental wear and tear from aging was not present. Contrary to most scientific beliefs, it’s the limbic brain or emotional brain that may actually have to do with SuperAging. This means that having a positive attitude can not only decrease your stress, but maybe even ward off Alzheimer’s. The gray matter in the brain was noticeably more than someone who is not a SuperAger. There was a memory test that 90% of people failed.
The jury is still out on exactly what to do to get yourself to become a SuperAger, but we know a few things to be true. As mentioned above, push yourself beyond your physical limitations. Make yourself sweat, a lot. Get yourself to be sore. That means you have to work hard enough to breakdown muscle fibers. Most people, especially older folks, aren’t willing to do what it takes. Most people don’t want to feel uncomfortable. They take the easy way out. Well, it seems that the easy was is also a recipe for exiting life a little earlier. Be one of the few and take the road less traveled.
On the mental front it is suggested that you learn a language, or begin playing an instrument. So much of our culture is all about avoiding that unpleasant experience, when this is precisely what will give us the strength and growth that we’re looking for to stay alert into our old age. Games like Sudoku are not enough work for the brain. You need something much more challenging like taking a college course. You have to feel uncomfortable. That discomfort triggers the brain to work harder and grow. The old adage, if you don’t use it you lose it is truer than ever.
So give yourself a chance to become a SuperAger and put yourself into some difficulty. Make it a pact with yourself. I like to set up my year by choosing a few good races. I’m a trail runner, endurance mountain biker and triathlete. When I sign up for a race, I guarantee myself months of intense training. Do that for yourself, whether mental or physical, find something that gives you many months of a challenge and you’ll improve your chances of becoming a SuperAger. If you need some help, I’m always here to help you along the path @teddymcdonald.
Originally published on the author’s website.