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Seniors in their 90s remain mentally sharp

July 12, 2013

Seniors are living longer than previous generations, and while that may not come as much of a surprise, a new study from Denmark suggests they are also living better. Researchers found that adults in their 90s today are more likely to have high mental acuity than nonagenarians just 10 years ago. The findings, which were published in The Lancet, suggest that seniors may be able to stave off memory decline that was once thought of as inevitable.

To reach their conclusion, researchers compared the data of more than 2,200 people who were born in 1905 and still alive in 1998 to that of nearly 1,600 people born in 1915 and still living in 2010. The study subjects underwent tests to measure a number of different criteria ranging from their mental function to their ability to perform activities of daily living. Researchers found that the group born in 1915 was 32 percent more likely to reach 95 and also performed better on mental tests. Experts say the findings could reshape the way people view senior living.

"There's a fear that getting older means many years of living in bad shape with a rather gloomy outlook," Kaare Christensen, the lead study researcher, told Bloomberg. "I'm looking forward to living longer than 90 myself after this study."

The results are particularly encouraging given that the senior population is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. According to the Administration on Aging, there were about 39.6 million Americans 65 and older in 2009. By 2030, that number is estimated to grow to about 72.1 million, which will account for about 19 percent of the total population in the U.S.