Find Out What Makes These “Super Humans” Tick and How You Can Become One, Too

The word superager may sound like some otherworldly species based on comic book lore, but it is, in fact, an up-and-coming term that describes something close to a superpower: extraordinary mental capability in one’s golden years.

Origin: The Super Back Story

“Superager” was coined by neurologist Marsel Mesulam to describe those whose mental sharpness, agility and flexibility rivals that of someone who is physically decades younger.

Mesulam is Director of Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC) and part of the SuperAging project, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

The research conducted during the project is dedicated to determining what factors contribute to astonishing mental abilities of memory and attention in individuals over 80 years of age.

The Super Brain

What makes the brains of these “chosen ones” different, you ask? According to a study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a set of “emotional” regions (also responsible for functions such as stress, language and regulation of organs) in the brains of superagers were not ravaged by the aging process. Rather, they were as thick and strong as those of young adults.

The Not-So-Easy Steps to Becoming a Superager

This fascinating discovery now begs the ultimate question: How does someone become a superager?

The short answer? Work your brain out. Hard. And that doesn’t just mean plowing your way through a Sudoku book.

In order to maintain that the aforementioned regions of the brain stay thick, healthy and chock-full of activity, it has been shown that you must work especially hard at something physically or mentally.

This may seem easy enough, but there’s another component to it: You must push yourself past what makes you uncomfortable, tired, frustrated, etc.

Superaging your brain, in short, is not for the faint of heart: It is the true embodiment of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Constantly. You have to keep pushing until it hurts—either physically or mentally—and then keep going.

In other words, you literally use it or lose it.

So, get your running shoes ready for that next ultramarathon. Crack open that book (or tablet) and learn a new language. Your brain will thank you for it.