Super Agers: The Recipe for Aging Well

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about ‘super agers.’ It appears that they have identified that super agers have a thicker cortex. The cortex is the largest part of the brain: the outer layer of folded gray matter. Researchers think that the cortex is where all the action happens. Neurons fire there, thoughts and movements, along with higher level thinking, memory, planning and problem solving, it’s the happening place!

Researchers don’t quite know why some people have more gray matter than others. They wonder if it might be due to staying busy, exercising, social connections, and financial stability. That is certainly the opinion of Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones and I’m sure he’s right about many things!

Those things are all a fantastic recipe for aging well. Not surprisingly, many of us are aware that these things are critically important. But, as with anything, we get caught up in our daily lives and one or more of these really important facets of our lives can fall by the wayside as we hurry our way through our daily schedule.

For those of us who have a few years to go until retirement, or even for many of my friends who have entered that part of their lives, we all look to these long term goals, knowing how important they are. But one also might feel the pressure to feel like they are ‘just one more thing’ I’m supposed to be doing that I can’t quite get to. This is where the psychology of change and a little bit of grace comes into play to aging or just plain living well.

This past Easter our kids were both in other places so we were left to our own devices. We are lucky enough to see our kids often enough, so holidays don’t need to hold a lot of pressure for us. So as my husband and I were looking at the day, we decided to tackle a task that we had both been dreading. We needed to empty and refresh the water of our water rowers at the studio. The thought of hand pumping out 16 drums of water and refilling them wasn’t my first choice, but as we got into it, I realized as we sat on our “milking” stools, working on our grip, that we were enjoying the serenity and joy of this sacred holiday. So while we were dreading this arduous task, it ended up being a great way to spend the majority of our day.

So what is the point of that story? One of the things that I’m working towards is seeing the gift of what I’ve got, rather than what I don’t have in terms of enjoyment, health, finances, time, relationships etc. A tall order for sure, but one that I believe will not only help me grow into the person I hope to be one day, but actually enjoy the process of getting there.

So when I think of super aging, I don’t know the answer. I hope that I move enough, eat the right things, am doing the right kind of cognitive work, and enjoying my friends and family.But what I really believe is at the heart of super aging is trying to be present enough to enjoy the moments I have when I’m living them. I hope to have the capacity to re-contextualize situations that might be perceived one way, and look at it another. To me, the ability to do that is the definition of aging well. And if that happens to avoid a bit of gray matter loss, it’s a double win!