At SGSC we endlessly write about the importance of keeping the body fit and strong in order to perform the extreme sports we all love. Within that message is the idea that by challenging themselves through these sports and activities and keeping their body in good shape to meet these challenges people will also feel good mentally, on top of the physical benefits that they will experience.
Along the same lines, and of great interest to us, there has been a study by Dr Emily Rogalski, professor of Cognitive Neurology at North Western University in Chicago, of what she calls “super-agers”. These are people aged in their 80’s, 90’s and even up to 100 who don’t exhibit the usual age-related decline in brain performance. Her study involved following a group of 74 super-agers over several years, and these people were found to exhibit the mental sharpness and memory capacity normally associated with 50 year olds - albeit that some of the them were shown in post-mortem examination (10 of them agreed to have this done) to have the physical symptoms of dementia.
Interestingly, these people come from all sorts of backgrounds, some of them smoke, some don’t, some of them drink, some don’t, some have had quite traumatic experiences during their lives. Several of them are involved in sports, and most have strong social networks but all have active and purposeful lives. Apart from a larger than normal number of cells of a particular type in the brain - von Economo neurons - several things of a less physical nature unite these people. One of the most important, according to Rogalski, is a positive attitude to life. How she describes the personality type that seems to characterise the super-agers is having “optimism, resilience and perseverance”, all qualities that people need to exhibit in order to succeed at the demanding sports we feature on this site.
Whether you have an over-abundance of these von Economo neurons or not is not something that you have any control over. According to Rogalski, only 5% of people would be categorised as super-agers. What you can affect, however, is the way in which you approach life. So the remaining 95% of us should not lose heart as it appears that at least some of the retention of brain performance is down to Positive Mental Attitude - and all Silver Grey athletes have that!