The University of California – Irvine, affectionately known as UCI, lives in my own Orange County backyard. I just learned about a remarkable project, The 90+ Study, originating in the school’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders.
Three researchers began studying the “oldest old” in 2003 and have 1,400 people enrolled now. Coincidentally, the first outreach for data began with another project in 1981 in my neighborhood, now called Laguna Woods, but formerly known as (ahem) Leisure World. In this community, as in many others, younger boomers are moving in as “the second wave.”
The longest-running study
Then and now researchers wanted to know just how people live—and live well—into their 90s. Everyone in the current study was in the 1981 study. Now participants take tests every six months that evaluate diet, activity, medications and medical history, plus they’re assessed cognitively and physically.
The 90+ Study is the longest-running study of its kind that investigates health and lifestyle factors in this population, and happily just received another grant—this for $9.5 million—to continue the work.
Surprising facts about longevity
Direct from the research, here’s what we know:
- People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained.
- People who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did.
- Over 40 percent of people aged 90 and older suffer from dementia while almost 80 percent are disabled. Both are more common in women than men.
- About half of people with dementia over age 90 do not have sufficient neuropathology in their brain to explain their cognitive loss.
- People aged 90 and older with an APOE2 gene are less likely to have clinical Alzheimer’s dementia, but are much more likely to have Alzheimer’s neuropathology in their brains. (Previous research has shown APOE2 is associated with intact cognition but increased Alzheimer pathology in the oldest old.)
- Poor physical performance on activities such as walking is associated with increased risk of dementia.
I’ve always said I don’t want to live until 90. Maybe I’ll take my words back if this new research somehow changes HOW I can live at that age. You?
Meanwhile, where’s the red wine and cappuccino? Cheers!