Ageing rates vary widely find study

A study of people born within a year of each other has uncovered a huge gulf in the speed at which their bodies age.

A study of people born within a year of each other has uncovered a huge gulf in the speed at which their bodies age.The report, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tracked traits such as weight, kidney function and gum health.

Some of the 38-year-olds were ageing so badly that their “biological age” was on the cusp of retirement.

The team said the next step was to discover what was affecting the pace of ageing.

The international research group followed 954 people from the same town in New Zealand who were all born in 1972-73.

The scientists looked at 18 different ageing-related traits when the group turned 26, 32 and 38 years old.

The analysis showed that at the age of 38, the people’s biological ages ranged from the late-20s to those who were nearly 60.

“They look rough, they look lacking in vitality,” said Prof Terrie Moffitt from Duke University in the US.

The study said some people had almost stopped ageing during the period of the study, while others were gaining nearly three years of biological age for every twelve months that passed.

People with older biological ages tended to do worse in tests of brain function and had a weaker grip.

Most people’s biological age was within a few years of their chronological age. It is unclear how the pace of biological ageing changes through life with these measures.

Prof Moffitt said “Any area of life where we currently use chronological age is faulty, if we knew more about biological age we could be more fair and egalitarian.”

She argued the retirement age may be unfair for those “working at their peak” who then had to retire.

The researchers said it was unexpected to find such differences so early, but that the findings could help trial methods for slowing the pace of ageing and ultimately have implications for medicine.

She added: “Eventually if we really want to slow the process of ageing to prevent the onset of disease we’re going to have to intervene with young people.”

Online brain training helps older adults with everyday tasks

Brain training – playing online games that give memory and reasoning skills a workout – is beneficial for older people, a large-scale study has concluded.

Brain training - playing online games that give memory and reasoning skills a workout - is beneficial for older people, a large-scale study has concludedResearchers at King’s College London found the mental exercises kept minds sharp and helped people with everyday skills such as shopping and cooking.

Nearly 7,000 people aged 50 and over signed up for the six month experiment, launched by BBC TV’s Bang Goes The Theory.

The volunteers were recruited from the general population by a partnership between the BBC, the Alzheimer’s Society and the Medical Research Council.

As far as the investigators were aware, none had any problems with memory or cognition when they signed up to the experiment.

Some of the volunteers were encouraged to play online brain training games for 10 minutes at a time, as often as they wished. The others – the control group – were asked to do simple internet searches.

The researchers tested the subjects on a series of medically recognised cognitive tests at baseline and then again at three months and six months to see if there was any detectable difference between the groups.

The researchers found after six months, those who played “brain training” games for reasoning and problem-solving kept their broader cognitive skills better than those who did not.

The benefit appeared to kick in when people played the games at least five times a week.

And people over 60 who played these games reported better scores for carrying out essential everyday tasks, the Journal of Post-acute and Long Term Care Medicine reports.

But an earlier analysis by the same researchers suggests brain training has no benefit in people younger than 50.

The researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s are starting a longer trial to establish whether this approach could help prevent the development of dementia.

Dr Doug Brown of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “Online brain training is rapidly growing into a multi-million pound industry and studies like this are vital to help us understand what these games can and cannot do.

“While this study wasn’t long enough to test whether the brain training package can prevent cognitive decline or dementia, we’re excited to see that it can have a positive impact on how well older people perform essential everyday tasks.”