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Medicine Science

Researchers Find 70-Year-Olds Are Getting Smarter 115

Posted by timothy
from the watch-how-they-drive dept.
Pickens writes "AlphaGalileo reports that researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden have found in a forty-year study of 2,000 seniors that today's 70-year-olds do far better in intelligence tests than their predecessors, making it more difficult to detect dementia in its early stages. 'Using the test results, we've tried to identify people who are at risk of developing dementia,' says Dr. Simona Sacuiu. 'While this worked well for the group of 70-year-olds born in 1901-02, the same tests didn't offer any clues about who will develop dementia in the later generation of 70-year-olds born in 1930.' The 70-year-olds born in 1930 and examined in 2000 performed better in the intelligence tests than their predecessors born in 1901-02 and examined in 1971. 'The improvement can partly be explained by better pre- and neonatal care, better nutrition, higher quality of education, better treatment of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases, and not least the higher intellectual requirements of today's society, where access to advanced technology, television and the Internet has become part of everyday life,' says Sacuiu."
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Researchers Find 70-Year-Olds Are Getting Smarter

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  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @02:25AM (#34001946) Homepage

    it's well documented that staying active in the workforce is good for the brain, at least when compared to the sedentary tv-filled days of most retirees.

    todays 70-year-olds are smarter.... because most of them can't afford to retire.

  • SMRT (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Reed Solomon (897367) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @03:18AM (#34002118) Homepage

    Well they must be getting smarter, they surely can't possibly get any dumber. Being against a public option yet if you try to take away their medicare there'll be hell to pay. I wonder how it is that the stupid seem to often outlive the intelligent.

  • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Sunday October 24, 2010 @03:41AM (#34002178) Homepage

    Or is it? NPR recently ran a story [npr.org] reporting that "mentally stimulating lifestyles may speed up dementia once it hits in old age." It's not a long read but it's certainly relevent to the discussion. Maybe these 70-year olds are merely enjoying the delay effects described?

    It's probably the case that the mental stimulation is having no effect on the disease itself, but is helping a lot with allowing the effects of the disease to be masked by the increased plasticity of the rest of the brain. In other words, you're going at the same time but you're suffering far less.

  • Re:SMRT (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Troll-in-Training (1815480) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @04:13AM (#34002266)

    Well they must be getting smarter, they surely can't possibly get any dumber. Being against a public option yet if you try to take away their medicare there'll be hell to pay. I wonder how it is that the stupid seem to often outlive the intelligent.

    Stress is a killer, dealing with all the stupid people weakens the smart people and they die sooner. Stupid people are happier and have less stress as they off load it to those smarter than them thus living longer (those that don't win Darwin awards early on). Stupidity has advantages, it is why it will always be with us.

  • by Jesus_Corpse (190811) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @04:54AM (#34002402)

    From a quick glance in the article, I couldn't find whether or not the test was the same for the 70 year-olds born in 1900 and in 1930. Classic intelligence tests (IQ tests) need to be 'normalized' every few years, because the general populace is getting smarter. If they used the same test, this is not at all surprising. It would hold for a much wider range of ages

  • I'm here, too (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @04:59AM (#34002420)

    80 is the new 60. At this point in life, many of us revert to the "and 1/2" definition favored by 5 year-olds. I'm 77 and three quarters.

    I believe that physical, emotional and mental activity prolong life.

    Length of life is not as important as quality of life. A factor that's helping me have both is the exceptional preventive health care I get from the US Veteran's Administration. Fifteen years ago, they diagnosed and cured my prostate cancer before it got into my system. They caught my diabetes early, before it did any damage to my heart, eyes, kidneys, etc. and I am healthier for it today.

    Sigmund Freud said that mental and emotional health can be measured by ones ability to love and to work. An involved and active life provides both its own health giving benefits and its ongoing joy. I own a business, in which I do most of the work, that builds and hosts web sites. I am active in my community, participating in local issue discussions and confronting office holders to do their jobs. I go out to a movie - big room, big screen - about once a week. I regularly attend live theater, opera, ballet and concerts regularly. I take a good long and fast walk every day, regardless of weather. I have dinner or breakfast with friends at least once a week. When television switched to digital format on June 12, 2009, I gave away my rabbit-ears tv set and have not missed a damn bit of it. In the past 10 years I have spent months at a time as as a traveller (not a tourist) through China, India, Australia, small countries of Asia, many Caribbean islands, etc. and of course, the USA, by bus and train after flying in.

    I have a social and sex life. Last week I married a woman 22 years younger than me. She and I first met in 1987, so I admit that both of us have been a little slow in getting to this point.

    Most important of all, I have lived the life of Mark Twain espoused. When he was asked, near the end of that long and exciting life filled with crushing failures and exhilarating successes, if he had any regrets, he reflected for a moment and said, "Regrets? Many. And every one of them because of a temptation I resisted."

    Carpe diem.

  • Lawn Stimulation (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:49AM (#34002958)

    That was about five years ago. They should do a follow up to see if it was as successful as they hoped.

  • Re:Dammit, seniors! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:35AM (#34003196) Journal

    Dementia doesn't get anywhere near the funding it should. There's all these cancer charities -

    Not to be rude, but at some level there's a limit to what can be funded. Perhaps more could be funded in total and there should be more dementia research funding over cancer research funding. But, I was always under the impression that cancer research got more attention because people were more concerned about children, teens, young adults, middle-aged adults, and pre-seniors all not dying of cancer than someone who has lived a full life having a few years--sadly, mind you--with a much reduced quality of life--a factor that's nearly guaranteed once you're old enough. Beyond that, cancer is a host of related problems which seems much more curable.

    mostly focused on breast cancer

    I'd attribute that to vanity, honestly, (as mastectomy is a very effective cure) but it could simply be that breast cancer is one of the most easily and early diagnosable cancers. Almost everything else requires an MRI or symptoms to even begin to suspect something is wrong.

    whereas nobody appears to care about brain cancer or lung cancer (you don't just get it by smoking),

    At least for brain cancer, I'd imagine it's because a lot of brain cancers are inoperable (in large part because they're so late detected and hence most of the damage is already done), but I agree lung cancer (IIRC, a good 20%+ are non-smoking related) should probably receive more focus/funding. Having said that, since cancer seems to be a serious of very similar ailments, a cure or treatment in one area could quite possible translate very strongly in almost all other areas, so any cancer research should do.

    while demetia sufferers need far more support, cost far more time and money to treat, and frankly I'd take prostate cancer over altzheimers any day

    Old age suffers need far more support (costing far more time and money to aid) than almost any other group (babies and toddlers require more) generally, so I don't think treating dementia matters greatly in that regard. As for prostate cancer, odds are good you'll suffer that anyways; it's just likely won't kill you. Truthfully, I imagine dementia research has suffered the same problem as brain cancer research: it's hard to diagnosis early and treatment seems near impossible. In fact, one major thing of recent history is that we can now diagnosis pre-alzheimers with a brain scan, which helps greatly in obtain more certain baselines (people might pass or fail the IQ tests given for other reasons and to pass implies you're already a sufferer) and in even thinking about making a treatment (since the best success rates happen most often pre-symptoms).

    In short, I think a major reason for the lopsided funded has precisely to do with those factors that look to produce the best results: longer quality of life in more early and easily treatable diseases (worst case, you can remove a breast, but it's harder to remove most of a lung or a large section of brain and expect good results; and symptomatic dementia patients are unlikely to recover). Thankfully, new research with early detection and drug treatments in dementia may help, but we're simply so early in the field that it's only now I'd expect to see a surge in funding.

  • Re:Dammit, seniors! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:38AM (#34003218)
    Not to mention the fact that you can survive and recover from prostate cancer. My great grandmother had at least 3 strokes before she died. For a while(until she was just too much to handle for them) she lived with my grandparents. They actually had to install a door in the hallway that they could lock, so that at night she could get to a bathroom but couldn't go around the house or, worse, get out of the house. She didn't know people in pictures, she could barely walk, or hardly communicate(I know some of that is different than dementia, but from a cognitive capacity standpoint, they're the same thing). I saw what it did to her and to my grandmother. My great-uncle was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. His went away, but he was recently diagnosed with something that is a precursor of leukemia and is undergoing chemo again. Like you say, I would much rather go through what he's going through than what she did, because while both had the support of our family, he can actually recognize that they're there and that he has a support base.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:53AM (#34003298)

    In Korea, only old people go to work because everyone else is too busy playing Starcraft.

  • Re:stupidity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by at_slashdot (674436) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @09:18AM (#34003424)

    I am no so sure about that, the brain is a complex organ, it might be possible that if you store more info (knowledge) you also get more intelligent. The brain is not like a memory chip where you store and remove data without actually changing the hardware, the simple fact of memorizing stuff for example changes your brain. Also, memorizing is not a passive activity, usually you (and your brain) are actively involved in the process.

    Also, talking from the other side of the equation about intelligence, it's pretty obvious to me that human intelligence is based on knowledge, since you can't have intelligence in the absence of knowledge, then I would guess the amount of knowledge is important too (if nothing else, think GIGO)

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @09:47AM (#34003576)

    My masters adviser was a guy named John Fenn. He's now 93 and still quite active in academia today.

    When he was about 70 Yale University tried to forcibly retire the guy. The laugh about this is that about this time he started a course of research into characterization of protein molecules that led to a Nobel Prize, awarded in 2002. Because of the retirement flap he left Yale and is now at Virginia Commonwealth.

    So was he smart at age 70? Duh.

  • tru dat, mang (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pxc (938367) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @01:18PM (#34004918)

    I've personally found that one of the biggest advantages of taking a course at a community college vs a big university is that there are more people 30+ years old. In every class, there is a time almost daily that one of these students has insight to offer that they've gained from the professional world (eg. working in the healthcare industry) or their personal lives (having kids makes you a valuable asset to any psychology class :-). There are a lot of things I'd never get to hear or understand if I was just in a classroom full of my peers (college-age kids).

    In a non-academic context, I've always been fascinated by the stories I've heard from old folks. It's almost unbelievable the amount of jobs and cities and roles that can be crammed into one person's life. So I imagine I'd see the same principle, but to a greater effect in a class with a few elders in it. I would love to see seniors come to study at my university simply because of how much I think it would benefit _me_.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @10:37PM (#34008320)

    > My poor mom is 71 and has dementia. When you loved ones get this, you lose them a little at a time instead of all at once. She used to read voraciously and carry on intellectual conversations. Now that is all gone. She taught me to think for myself.

    She's not at a so advanced age. I'm sorry to hear this. I've seen a documentary from Japan where they took seniors through several kinds of brain stimulating activities and had they don those hats with sensors to monitor neuron activity before/after all activities. I cannot give any more details since I don't understand Japanese (but the video was quite obvious with images depicting activated regions in the brain of those seniors).

    Since you say your mother was quite a good reader, I don't know what kind of activity could possibly benefit her; modern life also puts a high toll on our lives... I don't know if you have the time to do such activities anyway.

    Have you ruled out blood circulatory problems? Also, I've read recent research indicates a possible role of iron overload in brain malfunction.

    I hope things get better.

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