“Growing old is great – when you consider the alternative,”
as the saying goes.
When does old age begin？ 老年從何時開始？
The poet Dante believed old age started at 45. A survey of the British public concluded that it starts at 59 – the older the respondent, the greater the number of years they considered old. But the United Nations and most scientists define it as any age after 60.
Fewer colds 感冒減少
It’s not just the brain that gets wiser with age. The human immune system encounters millions of potential dangers every day. As the body’s police force, it needs to learn to spot the dangers. For this, we produce unique white blood cells which are tailored to the molecular appearances of millions of different invaders. When they recognise a foe they stick around, forming an ‘immune memory’. The next time it turns up, they help to rally a rapid response.
Outliving outbreaks 免疫增強
The 1918 flu pandemic was the deadliest in human history, killing 50 million people. But it was most lethal for those usually thought of as fit and strong, aged from 20 to 40. The 2009 swine flu outbreak followed the same bizarre pattern, with most fatalities in those under the age of 65.
Declining allergies 過敏減輕
And there’s good news for those with allergies, too. While the ultimate causes of allergies are still hotly debated, all are mediated by antibodies. The main culprit is Immunoglobulin E and like all other antibodies, its production diminishes with age.
Mitchell Grayson from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin says the older you get, the less severe the symptoms are likely to be. “Allergic disease peaks in childhood and then seems to decrease throughout late adolescence and into their 20s. In the 30s there is another resurgence until people get into their 50s and 60s when the symptoms tend to get less common.”
There’s no shortage of slang terms to describe the destructive effects of ageing on the brain. Yet in a number of vitally important abilities, older brains actually turn out to be smarter.
The Seattle Longitudinal Study has followed the mental abilities of 6,000 people since 1956. It’s the longest-running study of its kind, with the same volunteers tested every seven years. While older volunteers aren’t as good at maths and are slower to respond to commands, for vocabulary, spatial orientation, verbal memory, and problem solving abilities, they were better in their late 40s and 50s than they were in their 20s.
「西雅圖縱向研究」(Seattle Longitudinal Study)從1956年開始追蹤6,000人的心智能力。這是迄今為止同類研究中歷時最長的一項：所有的志願者每過7年都會接受一次測試。雖然年齡較老的志願者不太擅長數學，而且對命令的反應速度也會減慢，但他們在四五十歲時的詞匯、空間、方向、言語記憶和問題解決能力卻好於二十多歲時。
Fewer migraines 偏頭痛減輕
Migraines can become less of a headache as we age, too. A Swedish study of patients 18 and older found that attacks become shorter, less painful and less frequent as people get older. Of 374 people enrolled in the study, only four developed chronic headaches.
Less sweaty 出汗減少
Sweat glands shrink and become less numerous as people get older. Research shows that those in their 20s can expect to sweat more than those on their 50s and early 60s.