It isn’t often these days that we hear positive news about dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly. But a report recently cited by the NYTimesNewOldAge blog showed a decline in dementia rates in a Danish research study of 90-year-old seniors. Comparing two groups, one born in 1905 and the other in 1915, they found that the 1915 cohort lived longer, did better on cognitive testing and had more mobility. The two groups were evaluated in 1998 and again in 2010.
As life spans of older adults continue to lengthen, questions about quality of life and ability to function become increasingly important. The study showed those born in 1915 had a one-third higher chance of living to age 95 than the older group. This data supports the idea that the “newer” generations of the very old are, indeed, living longer and are higher functioning.
The testing demonstrated the younger subjects received much higher scores on two types of cognitive tests, and those with the highest scores nearly doubled, from 13 to 23 percent. On scales measuring mobility, they also had better scores, but didn’t show a significant difference in physical strength or speed. The researchers couldn’t associate any major historic event in Denmark, such as World Wars or famine to explain the outcomes.
Although unable to test for specific variables on things that might impact the differing results, the researchers suggested better diet, medical care, improved living conditions, a stronger economy, and more mental stimulation from radio and television might be in play. Better adaptive equipment might explain the increased mobility of the younger group.
The article also cited a study recently published that found dementia rates have declined in England and Wales. In a sample group of participants over 65, the rate of dementia had dropped one quarter in the past two decades.