With the great advancements, humanity has made in terms of our understanding of the human body and in terms of new medical technology, you might be safe to assume that older people today are healthier than those just a few decades ago. But now we have proof thanks to a compelling new study out of the Finland’s University of Jyväskylä.
The study compared the physical and cognitive performance of a group of older people in 2017 with a similarly aged group three decades earlier. What they saw were improvements in almost every single test, suggesting that humanity has successfully extended healthspan, a term used to describe the number of healthy years a person lives. While we know that life expectancy has risen, some researchers have been suggesting that medical research should focus on the quality of life rather than quantity, which is what the Finnish researchers have done.
The study compared two cohorts of 500 subjects who were all aged between 75 and 80. The first cohort (born between 1910 and 1914) participated in a variety of physical and cognitive tests in 1989. The second cohort, again aged between 75 and 80 (born between 1938 and 1943), completed the same tests in 2017.
As reported in New Atlas, improvements were noted across almost all tested metrics in the later-born cohort. Looking at physical performance, walking speed was faster, grip strength improved between five and 25 percent, knee extension strength improved between 20 and 47 percent, and lung function measurements were better. Similar improvements were also seen in the later-born cohort across most cognitive performance tests.
Following the study, principal investigator Taina Rantanen said that as life expectancy continues to grow, scientists must pay close attention to the balance between more healthy years lived, and the care systems necessary to manage very old populations at the end of their lives. She says expanding the period of non-disabled mid-life years and limiting one’s disabled end-of-life years should be a priority for aging researchers.