This article was culled from a piece by Tim Radford, published in Guardian Newspapers.

Old age has been postponed. Biologically and psychologically, it now begins at 80, according to Ian Robertson, dean of research at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.

“This leaves 30 years – roughly age 50 to 80, a period much longer than youth – for which we have to invent a whole new way of living,” he told the British Association science festival yesterday.

He began to study the effect of age on the brain in 1984. Then, the average age of stroke victims was 72. “By 1999, the average age of my patients was around 82. In just 15 short years, I saw with my own eyes how, in many senses of the word, people had become younger by roughly 10 years.”

The human brain, he argued, at all ages was plastic: it was shaped by experience, learning, and thinking. Ancient Romans had a life expectancy of 22, while Europeans could look forward to a lifespan of 50 years at the start of the 20th century.

Old age has been postponed. Biologically and psychologically, it now begins at 80. Get details and discover a seven-point plan for a youthful old age. Click To Tweet

A woman of 60 in Britain now could expect to live on average to 83. The degree to which people retained their faculties after 50 was influenced by what they did.

He listed a seven-point plan to ensure a youthful old age:

  • Aerobic fitness was probably most important. The function and structure of the brain were influenced by activity.
  • Mental stimulation was vital. People could reduce cognitive decline by mental training.
  • New learning was important. “The more you learn, the more you can learn,” he said. “It can have profound physiological effects on the brain.”
  • High and prolonged stress had negative effects, particular on human memory.
  • A rich social life helped. “People who maintain a lot of social interactions maintain mental sharpness for a longer period.”
  • Healthy eating. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables and fish had profound effects on cognitive decline later in life.
  • Finally, think young.

Credit: Guardian Newspapers