Recent research from Finnish researchers has shown elderly people now are healthier and fitter than their counterparts from 30 years back! Better nutrition and healthcare have definitely added years to our lives. But this research showed how elderly people between the ages of 75 and 80 now walk 1mph faster than pensioners did in 1990.
Most elderly people in our society have better grip and leg strength now. Their verbal fluency, reaction speed, memory, and reasoning are also improved.
Finnish Research On Elderly People
500 people born in 1910 through 1914 participated in this research and were tested in the years 1989 and 1990. And another 726 people born in 1938 were tested in 2018. The tests assess their cognitive function and physical state. The elderly people were asked to walk 10 meters to check the average speed. The biggest jump in the date for the walking speed was 0.9mph. This was recorded in women aged 80 years, who potter at 3.6 mph now. It used to be 2.7 mph for the 1990 batch. ‘In grip strength, the improvements were 5-25 percent, and in knee extension strength 20-47 percent,’ the researchers add in the study.
Co-author of the study, Kaisa Koivunen explained that increased body size and higher physical activity are the leading causes of the increase in the walking speed of elderly people.
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Another study on mental functions also showed improvements. As the living conditions have improved over the years, people have become stronger and more educated. This made them superior to the previous batch. Postdoctoral researcher Matti Munukka explained, “…better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in health care and the school system, better accessibility to education and improved working life” aided the mental improvements.
Global Changes And Nordic Lives
The early cohort was raised in a farming economy, relying on hard labor. They lived through the First World War and also the Russian Civil War. Many young kids left schools around this time to participate in laborious jobs. But the second batch of kids who witnessed the Second World War was also the first one to get some special benefits.
“The foundations of the Nordic welfare system were laid in the 1930s, including the provision of free school meals for all children and longer obligatory education. Finland developed rapidly in the 1950s, access to secondary and tertiary education improved and the female disadvantage in education narrowed,” the researchers explain in their study.
Taina Rantanen, the co-author of the study, pointed out how there has not been much research to compare performance-based measures between different generations. As life expectancy has increased, non-disabled years have also increased. But this also implies a higher need for care in later ages for the elderly people.
IMAGE FEATURED: Iakov Filimonov