Here's another ultra-exclusive club that you can't buy your way into. No one you know can help smooth your way to an invitation. Membership to the Super Memory Club is reserved for only about 1 in 200 people - those who live past 90 without traces of dementia. Gaining admission is a matter of luck, genes, and routines. Mental stimulation and challenging mental activities in your life might be about the only invitation factors you can control.
In a joint study by the University of Southern California and the University of California Irvine, researchers have studied more than 14,000 people over 65 since 1981 in an attempt to discover patterns and causes of what leads to a healthy aging brain. With dementia on the rise as people live longer and longer, the 90+ Study is timely: 40% of the men and 60% of the women who live to age 95 would meet a dementia diagnosis. Much of the studies have been done at Laguna Woods, the huge retirement community in Orange County.
The New York Times recently published a fascinating article, "At the Bridge Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age", that talks about the 90+ Study and particularly, how old age and dementia play out at the bridge tables in Laguna Woods. The ladies there play a mean game of bridge, and to stay invited one needs to be able to remember bidding strategies and every card played. Players who show signs of confusion or memory lapses find themselves out of the game. And sadly, as Norma Koskoff is quoted as saying, "... very often when they stop playing, they don't live much longer."
Neurologists are struggling to find the keys to a healthy brain. Dr. Claudia Kawas from UC Irvine believes that social interaction can help memory: "Interacting with people regularly... uses easily as much brain power as doing puzzles." Dr. Kawas also thinks that bridge is good for the brain. Many people will be surprised by two of the factors that scientists there believe are not affecting the risk of dementia: diet or exercise.
Apparently there are some people whose brains are affected by Alzheimer's disease that can retain their mental lucidity. Researchers believe that a gene variant, APOE2, may be the reason for that.
The 90+ Study
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