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WHAT? Scientists Say We Can Benefit From Aging!

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WHAT? Scientists Say We Can Benefit From Aging!

Society at large tells us to fear aging – we have entire industries built upon it (hello anti-wrinkle cream industry and age-related hair-dye conglomerates) and happiness within the media is correlated to beauty, health, and most importantly it seems, youth. However, research has emerged that says that aging gracefully might actually have a whole host of benefits.

Research Shows Mental and Physical Improvements

Research has found that while getting older does have its disadvantages, such as some loss of mobility, and a stronger likelihood of developing some diseases, it also has some advantages – such a reduction in gaining some illnesses, declining allergies, and even increasing and boosting intelligence.

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Many of the benefits associated with aging are to do with the physiological or medical side – for example, the older you get, the less likely you are to catch and suffer with a cold. Research has found that the aging immune system, a topic under strong scrutiny by the scientific community with a rapidly aging population, has a stronger ‘immune memory’; that is, the body’s way of collecting information about how they survived and fought off previous biological attacks (such as viruses, or in this case colds) and adapts the immune system to quicker and better fend off the cold before it can affect you. Simply put, as you age your immune system has more knowledge about how to fight off threats to it, and is better at stopping them before you find yourself with a nasty seasonal cold or flu.

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Aging Helps You Avoid the Next Plague

This ‘immune experience’ as it were, feeds into other benefits – the older you are, the more likely you are to outlive an outbreak of a deadly virus; research into pandemics such as the 2009 swine flu outbreak and the 1918 flu pandemic had more victims in the ‘healthy’ age range of under 65 and 20-40 years old respectively, than older afflicted victims. This is believed to be due to the immune system, strongest in the younger populace, accidentally turning on itself in a ‘cytokine storm’ (when the immune system turns on infectious pathogens, but is too vigorous, killing off healthy cells as well); cytokine storms are, for this reason, less likely in older victims, making them more likely to survive. Older people are also less likely to suffer from less allergies – thanks to lowering levels of Immunoglobulin E which is linked to allergic responses.

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Aging Increases Your Intelligence

Increasing age has also been linked to maintaining or increasing your intelligence levels – the Seattle Longitudinal Study, a study nearly sixty years in the making and still ongoing, has been investigating the mental capacities of humans as they develop throughout their lifetimes, and have found that older people in their forties and fifties are stronger in spatial orientation, verbal memory, problem solving abilities, and vocabulary, than participants in their twenties, at a time in the mainstream when humans are considered to be at their ‘peak’. Researchers in the study believe this is down to stronger collective memory and maybe even a higher level of confidence in their own abilities at this point.

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Aging Provides You with Some Fun, Too!

Aging also has some more fun side effects, that might well be enjoyed their younger contemporaries – such as better sex, for example. While this may sound like some incongruous boasting, studies have shown that people in their sixties (74% of men and 70% of women, to be exact) report having more sexual enjoyment and pleasure than they did when they were in their forties. This is believed due to higher sexual confidence about their bodies and in knowing what they want from experiences in the bedroom.

More fun side effects of aging include experiencing fewer migraines, perspiring less – thanks to shrinking sweat glands as people enter their middle age years – and can even cheat death for longer… mathematically at least. The older people get, the more likely we are to see another year, even as we reach the average age for our time. Maybe it’s not the secret to the Fountain of Youth, but whoever said there had to be so much wrong with aging gracefully?

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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