“Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg of the Umea University in Sweden who led the study.
Achieving higher degrees or doing some high-esteemed job was not a guarantee to save your brain; people having done PhDs and people with high-school education were all equal when it came to memory loss in the old age, said Nyberg.
“There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says.
According to the research, this new take on successful ageing represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in ageing.
Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages, the researcher adds.