Aging

Your Friends May Help You Age Better — But Only If You Pick the Right Ones

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Ever since we first heard the term “super-agers,” we’ve been pretty darn intrigued. These admirable folks are in their 70s or 80s, but have the mental or physical capability of those decades younger. A recent study sheds light on their secret sauce — and a main ingredient is, friendship. 

The surprisingly heartwarming study, published in PLOS ONE, examined six aspects of super-agers’ lives: autonomy, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Super-agers reported having more satisfying, high-quality relationships when compared to cognitively average peers of the same age range. These relationships were described as being positive, warm, and trusting. 

“You don’t have the be the life of the party,” said senior author Emily Rogalski, PhD, in a press release. “But this study supports the theory that maintaining strong social networks seems to be linked to slower cognitive decline.” 

Experts are excited about the study, describing it as a step toward understanding what factors can help maintain a person’s cognitive ability as they get older. This potential link is particularly thrilling because expanding your social network is a change you have the option to make. (If you find yourself struggling to meet new people, you’re not alone. Check out this guide on how to make friends as an adult, which includes tips like volunteering and joining classes that pique your interest.)

“It’s not as simple as saying if you have a strong social network, you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Rogalski said. “But if there is a list of healthy choices one can make, such as eating a certain diet and not smoking. Maintaining strong social networks may be an important one on that list. None of these things by [themselves] guarantees you don’t get the disease, but they may still have health benefits.”

We don’t know about you, but we think this is a perfect excuse for a ladies’ night!

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