Older People Have Become Younger: Study Finds Functional Ability Of Seniors Has Improved

September 22, 2020

A study conducted at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, found that the functional ability of older people is nowadays better when it is compared to that of people at the same age three decades ago.

older people are younger now

The study compared the physical and cognitive performance of people between the ages of 75 and 80 with that of the same-aged people in the 1990s.

Among men and women between the ages of 75 and 80, muscle strength, walking speed, reaction speed, verbal fluency, reasoning and working memory are significantly better than they were in people at the same age born earlier.

"Higher physical activity and increased body size explained the better walking speed and muscle strength among the later-born cohort," says doctoral student Kaisa Koivunen, "whereas the most important underlying factor behind the cohort differences in cognitive performance was longer education."

"The cohort of 75- and 80-year-olds born later has grown up and lived in a different world than did their counterparts born three decades ago," added researcher Matti Munukka. "There have been many favourable changes. These include better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in health care and the school system, better accessibility to education and improved working life."

The results suggest that increased life expectancy is accompanied by an increased number of years lived with good functional ability in later life.

The observation can be explained by slower rate-of-change with increasing age, a higher lifetime maximum in physical performance, or a combination of the two.

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