People are living longer than ever before—often into their 90s—but can the mind keep up?
Although our bodies might still be (sort of) working as we approach 100-years-old, many wonder whether their minds will be sharp enough to appreciate life.
- A new Danish study has looked at this by comparing the brainpower of two groups of nonagenarians (Christensen et al., 2013):
- The first group were born in 1905 and assessed at 93-years-old.
- The second group were born in 1915 and assessed at 95-years-old.
To see how dramatically lifespan is increasing, the chances of people in this study reaching 90 increased by almost 30% in just those ten years between 1905 and 1915.
But the main question is: did people born 10 years later perform any differently on standardised cognitive tests?
Indeed they did:
So, being born just 10 years later meant that, by the time they got to 95, their minds were sharper. This improvement in scores of cognitive functioning is known as ‘the Flynn effect’ and has been demonstrated on young and middle-aged people repeatedly. The reasons for it are hotly debated:
Whatever the explanation, the results of this study suggest that as we approach old age, on average, we should arrive in better shape mentally than any previous generation.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.