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Having friends may help seniors stay sharp, study says

Dec. 7, 2017—How can you stay sharp as you grow older? Having solid friendships could play a part, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Northwestern University looked at "SuperAgers." These are people 80 years and older who have the cognitive ability of those in their 50s and 60s.

The study found that SuperAgers said they had positive social relationships more often than those who were the same age but had average cognitive ability.

Mental well-being in older adults

Participants in the study answered a survey meant to assess their "psychological well-being." What's that? It's a measure of people's positive view toward their self and life. Mental well-being has been connected with better cognitive performance in older adults.

The survey included questions asking participants whether they had warm, trusting and high-quality relationships with others. The SuperAgers reported having these positive relationships more often than the other participants.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Good friends are a good thing

Having a strong social network has also been linked to living longer, experiencing depression less often and coping better with health problems. Having good friends doesn't mean you won't experience dementia. But this study supports the link between having a better memory and maintaining a solid network of friends.

So how do you stay connected as you grow older? There are many ways, including getting involved in community activities, taking classes, staying active and volunteering. If you live in a more remote location or away from family, you can connect with others through technology.

Aging and the brain

Getting older doesn't mean you have to come to terms with your brain not working as well. It's a myth that cognitive decline is a natural part of aging. In fact, this study followed people who had memories just as healthy as those who were 20 to 30 years younger.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help you live a better life at an older age. This research highlights that having a strong social network could be a good thing.

You can learn about other aging myths and facts with this quiz.

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