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Medicine Science

Researchers Find 70-Year-Olds Are Getting Smarter 115

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 cappp ( 1822388 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @02:31AM (#34001962)
    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?

    So for those who are mentally engaged, it may take many more years for the symptoms of the disease to appear. But once they do, the course of the disease seems to speed up. Researchers say there's a bit of a silver lining here: knowing that the disease will likely progress more quickly. "We think this is very good news," Wilson says. "It suggests that cognitive activity extends your period of cognitive independence as long as it possibly can." And it will likely shorten the battle at the end of life. This means Alzheimer's patients may be less of a burden to caregivers and loved ones.

  • Stimulation (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @04:21AM (#34002298) Homepage Journal

    My dad retired from rockwell at 65 and I was worried for while because spent a couple of years cruising around the country with his girlfriend in their winnebago. Not very stimulating and a recipe for a second heart attack IMHO.

    But now he is getting into U3A [griffith.edu.au] and spending seemingly half the week there. He is teaching courses, taking courses. Reorganising their local area network, installing servers, griping and moaning about this guy who built the sites databases in access, and generally having a fantastic time.

    I just wish I could get him to walk or cycle to U3A rather than driving. Its only five km or so and he can't afford to have his heart seize up again.

    I think there used to be this expectation that retirement was a time when you could catch up on all that TV you were missing and create the lawn. Baby boomers have different expectations and this may be helping their prospects.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday October 24, 2010 @04:38AM (#34002332)

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

    It's in Sweden, their geezers _can_ retire, no problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @06:22AM (#34002704)

    We used to think people had all the neurons they were going to have by their early twenties. It was all downhill from there. We now know that we can grow new neurons. We also know that the brain can wire around damage.

    We now know that the brain is a lot like a muscle. Exercise builds the brain just like it does muscles. Seniors don't have to be feeble. The reason most seniors are feeble is that they quit exercising. Seniors who exercise physically aren't feeble physically. Seniors who exercise their brains aren't feeble minded. BTW, physical exercise is also important for the brain. The brain relies on nourishment from the rest of the body. A feeble body doesn't give the brain what it needs.

    The new mantra is 'use it or lose it'.

  • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:00AM (#34002826)

    "it's well documented that staying active in the workforce is good for the brain"

    And this has to do with Sweden exactly, what?

    Sweden, you know, is one of those old European countries USA people would tell as communist as old Soviet Union if some from its life style would be tried in America. Swedish oldies have no problem to retire and they do on average at 61 with all Swedish residents entitled to a state-financed guaranteed minimum pension from the age of 65, which is the standard retirement age over there.

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

    Again, USA is not the all and everything of the world.

  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @12:33PM (#34004652)

    A one percentile example anecdote does not prove the rule, but it _is_ pleasant to read about - precisely because it is so uncommon.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.