Despite their advanced age, super-agers have above-average mental fitness. Their memory performance is as good at the age of 80 as it is at the age of 50 or 60. What is their secret?

It is normal for our memory to decline as we age. At least that’s true for most people. An exception are so-called superagers. By definition, the memory performance of these seniors is equivalent to that of people 30 years younger. So an 80-year-old super-ager is as mentally fit as an average 50-year-old.

What is her secret? Researchers led by Bryan Strange, professor of clinical neuroscience at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, have been investigating this for several years.

To do this, they analyze data from 64 super-agers and 55 comparison subjects. Participants complete regular tests that test their memory, motor and verbal skills, undergo brain scans and blood tests, and answer questions about lifestyle and behaviors. The research team has already published a total of two studies, one last year (FOCUS online reported) and one in April of this year.

Differences in brains

In summary, the researchers found that the super-agers had more volume in the brain regions important for memory, especially in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. In addition, connectivity between regions in the front of the brain that are important for cognition was better preserved.

Interestingly, both super-agers and the control group showed minimal signs of Alzheimer’s in their brains. An important finding because: “If we have two groups, both with low levels of Alzheimer’s markers, but with striking cognitive differences and striking differences in their brains, then we are really talking about resistance to age-related decline,” Strange explained to the ” New York Times”.

Differences in lifestyle and health

How this resistance occurs in the brain is still unclear. However, the researchers were also able to identify differences in terms of health and lifestyle factors.

The super-agers performed significantly better in two areas:

Interestingly, the advantage existed in mobility and motor skills, even though the super-agers were not more physically active than the control group. However, a closer look at the first study shows that they did so in midlife. The foundation for future mobility is laid earlier.

The super-agers also performed better than the control group in surveys and tests on mental health. They had less depression and anxiety. Then it can play a role, because mental illnesses such as depression are considered a risk factor for the development of dementia.

In addition, other variables were identified that “could optimize memory function into the ninth decade of life,” the researchers write.


Interestingly, super-agers were also more likely to be separated or divorced. This is in contrast to previous studies with super-agers. The researchers attribute this to cultural differences between the respective study subjects.

Important: This is a so-called observational study. The researchers themselves write that “a causal relationship cannot be concluded between the factors reported here and super-agers.”

“In an ideal world you would find that all super-agers eat six tomatoes every day and that would be the key,” The New York Times quoted Tessa Harrison as saying. She herself has already been involved in studies on super-agers. However, super-agers “probably have some kind of lucky predisposition or resistance mechanism in the brain at a molecular level that we don’t yet understand – probably linked to their genes.”

Conclusion: While there is no recipe for becoming a super-ager, science agrees that certain protective factors can help our brains age healthily. Considered the most important

Also read: What a dementia doctor does to avoid forgetting