February 15 – Staying Sane

Today’s factismal: Staying active with lots of hobbies has been shown to stave off dementia in older people.

One of the miracles of the modern age is that more people are living longer. A lot longer. For example, the oldest person in the world today is Misao Okawa of Japan, who was born on March 5, 1898, making her more than 116 years old! And today there are more “supercentenarians” than ever. And that i causing both rejoicing and trouble.

The trouble comes about because not every part of us makes it past 100; livers wear out, knees give way, hearts get iffy. But the most serious trouble is with the brain, the very thing that defines us as a people. As some people get older, their brain begins to malfunction; they can no longer remember their friends and family, or they have problems with simple tasks such as getting dressed. The medical term for this is dementia.

Though we don’t have a cure for dementia (yet), doctors have noticed that those who don’t get it have some habits in common. And one of the most important habits for staving off dementia turns out to be having lots of friends and lots of hobbies. Doctors think that the social interaction of having lots of friends helps keep the brain in shape and the habits of hobbies help the brain remember other rote tasks.

Some of Alfred Date's sweater for penguins (Image courtesy PINP/AAT Kings/Spotlight/Rex USA)

Some of Alfred Date’s sweater for penguins
(Image courtesy PINP/AAT Kings/Spotlight/Rex USA)

Perhaps the best example of this is Alfred Date, who is Australia’s oldest man at 109 years old. He has an extensive social life and many hobbies, including knitting sweaters for penguins. The sweaters come in handy when the penguins are accidentally covered with oil; the sweater keeps them from preening and swallowing the oil. And Alfred’s hobbies keep him mentally sharp and ready for anything.

Now, if you are looking for a hobby to keep you mentally fit, why not join a citizen science project? Something like AgeGuess would help keep you going well into your ripe old age! AgeGuess is a project that seeks to understand the visible signs of aging by having volunteers submit their photo for people to guess their age and by having volunteers guess the age of others. To participate, head over to:

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