Ingmar Skoog’s book “70 is the new 50” discusses how aging has changed over the past 50 years. The book is based on research results from the NEAR-based H70 studies, which examine the health of different birth cohorts of 70-year-olds. The oldest cohort of 70-year-olds was born in the 20th century (1901-02 and 1906-07) and new cohorts of 70-year-olds born in 1911-12, 1922, 1930, and 1944 have been assessed.
“We have examined 70-year-olds for more than 50 years and looked at a wide range of clinical, psychological, and social health factors concerning aging”, says Ingmar Skoog.
What has surprised Ingmar the most are the large improvements in almost all health aspects in later-born cohorts.
“We found radical differences such that later-born cohorts of older adults are intellectually sharper, physically stronger, less depressed, have more sex, and have a better blood pressure than their counterparts from previous generations”.
Skoog argues that today’s 70-year-olds have physical and mental abilities similar to 50-year-olds from just a few generations ago.
“Today’s 70-year-olds are almost twice as good at everything as 40 years ago. For example, among those born in the 1940s, two-thirds were better at logical reasoning than those born at the turn of the 20th century. Moreover, compared to 70-year-olds born in the 1930s, more than 50% of men and 3.5 times as many women managed to keep their balance for 30 seconds in the 1940 birth cohort. Later-born cohorts of 70-year-olds are also stronger and have better verbal and spatial abilities, a faster walking pace, and processing speed than earlier-born cohorts”.
The book covers everything from what happens in our bodies to societal changes as we age. It also provides a fascinating insight into how aging has changed in recent decades due to rapid historical developments.
“Tremendous medical and societal advances occurred during the 20th century. The cohort born in 1901-02 could not treat infections with antibiotics until 40 years old. They did not get vaccinations as children against dangerous diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Also, high diastolic blood pressure was not treated until the 1960s, and systolic blood pressure was not managed until the 1980s. In recent decades, the chances of diagnosing and surviving a stroke, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases are also much higher and smoking has decreased. On top of this, laws and regulations have changed for the better, as have working and living conditions. Taken together, there are many reasons why we age better today than a few decades ago”, says Skoog.
Ingmar started working with the H70 studies in his thirties. He turns 70 in February and can look back at a 40-year career in aging research. However, he does not intend to quit his job just yet and he plans to continue working on the H70 studies for a few more years. Also, in 2023, he recorded 46 television programs and 28 radio programs for Studio 65, a program about life after 65 years, where he is an expert on each program.
“We are recording the third season now. It has already been decided that there will be a fourth and a fifth season. I will be relieved, however, since they will bring in another expert.”
Currently, 70-year-olds born between 1952 and 1954 are examined in the H70 studies. Does Ingmar think we will continue to see an increase in 70-year-old capacities in later-born cohorts?
“Maybe. We recently tested a group of 85-year-olds, and they are like 70-year-olds were a few generations ago. Future research results, however, depend on continued financial support. It takes time to learn the methodology for this kind of study and if this knowledge is lost to the next generation of researchers, we risk losing the longitudinal perspective with comparable viewpoints that make the H70 studies and other NEAR databases so remarkable.”
Ingmar’s best tip on aging healthy:
– Exercise. It is beneficial to our cells to exercise. Make sure you get both cardio and strength training. Muscles get weaker with age and it’s key to building resilience for future falls with muscles and balance.
– Eat well. Think about what you eat – opt for the Mediterranean diet that includes vegetables, nuts, olive oil, fish, and maybe chicken. Eat less red meat. Treat yourself to an occasional treat.
– Sleep. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. The brain is active during sleep, washing away harmful substances and consolidating and repairing broken memories.
– Socialize. Humans are gregarious animals that need to socialize with others for health reasons. Research shows that being alone is dangerous, even if you don’t feel alone.
– Monitor cardiovascular health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes do not necessarily cause noticeable symptoms. Go for a health check.
– Keep your brain active. Give your brain a variety of exercises. If you only do crossword puzzles, your brain will only be adept at crossword puzzles. Do cultural activities or sing in a choir.
– Keep your curiosity. Try new things, do things you’ve dreamed about – surprise yourself!
On November 21, NEAR attended and held a symposium at the Swedish Graduate School on Ageing and Health (SWEAH) conference in Norrköping. SWEAH is a multidisciplinary research school on aging and health, which Lund University coordinates. The theme of the conference was: “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sustainable Ageing” and was aimed at researchers at all levels […]
On November 8, NEAR organized its fifth workshop in collaboration with the Ferrero Foundation during Healthy Aging Week 2023 in Alba, Italy. This year’s workshop focused on new opportunities for aging research in Europe. NEAR presented several examples and projects using NEAR data. The workshop was chaired by Maria Eriksdotter, Dean of Karolinska Institutet (KI) […]
On October 12th, NEAR and the Comparative Research Center Sweden (CORS) held a seminar entitled “Ethical Perspectives on Data Usage in Research Infrastructures”. The seminar aimed to understand the ethical aspects of using secondary data in research infrastructures. During the afternoon, around 100 participants attended, on-site or online, to listen to the seminar, which involved […]