Seems I’m behind the times – until a few ago, had never heard the term “wellderly.” AKA “old people who are in good health.”
Per the World Health Organization (WHO), many developed countries hold 65 to be the augur of elderly, while the United Nations (UN) tags it five years younger – 60! ARE they old, or simply 60+ years in age?
Back in Spring 2016, Eric Topol, MD, a geneticist at Scripps Health, published The Wellderly Study that looked at people 85+ years old whose lives had been free of chronic disease (except arthritis, “which is ubiquitous in folks 70+”).
In a collaboration between Scripps Research Institute & Scripps Health, Dr. Topol & his team collected 1,400+ genetic samples from “wellderlies,” data that is now available as a DNA data set to other scientists.
Known as the Scripps Wellderly Genome Resource, it offers priceless info for comparing wellderlies to their disease-prone peers. Its long-term goal is to uncover the mechanisms that protect these healthy 85+ year olds, that let their systems apparently flick away the deterioration that besets most their age.
Radical concept, from medicine’s pov – focus on the healthy instead of the physically and/or mentally diseased & deteriorated. It’s not wasted on me that these studies are happening as my Boomer generation grows greyer & greyer, with no stomach for having the longer lives that improved medicine & medical technology offers if they are devoid of good mental & physical health.
Find myself thinking of my mother, of John’s, of the awesome Anne Hyatt. Of the three women, only Mom Murphy was a by-definition wellderly – she was devoid of any chronic debilitation until the instant she died of a massive heart attack. Mom had problems with a torn rotator cuff that left her without the full use of an arm, while Anne had advanced dementia.
But I’d tag all three as wellderly. Mom was limited in her movements, but she was sharp as tacks to the very end. Anne couldn’t remember from one moment to the next the day & the date, but no one was more ready for the next moment of joy. THAT’s the sort of wellderly I want to be as I age ever upward.
How do we get samples, do studies that nurture those traits? Worth a ponder.
Those three ladies are my sort of wellderlies!