Life Course Aging Processes – University of Copenhagen

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Life course aging processes

Danes get older, and more of them are living a greater part of their lives in the third age. In order for most people to have an active old age, researchers are investigating how citizens can be motivated to enjoy an active lifestyle and what happens to muscles and the brain as we age.

In Theme 2, researchers are looking at ageing processes throughout the life span. They are also conducting an intervention project focusing on physical activity to counter age-related changes in musculature and brain. 

Researchers are focusing on how citizens can be motivated to a more energetic and active lifestyle. They are doing so by investigating the interaction between cognitive and physical function in the middle-aged individuals who have been treated with preventive medication. The project is multi-disciplinary and is based on methods and theories from the humanities, the social sciences and the health sciences.

Does moderate physical activity lead to a healthy old age?
It is well documented that physical training is associated with healthier aging but how much physical activity is enough and how can we establish new, stable exercise habits when facing the transition between working and retirement? Researchers are trying to find the answers to these questions in a intervention project in which the effects of different levels of physical exercise are evaluated in participants in an age where the transition between working and retirement usually takes place.

The results will be used to promote the maintenance of physically active and energetic lifestyles throughout old age. The researchers will also be using the project to investigate the part played by social factors in motivating the elderly to take exercise.

The brain provides insights into how we age

Another area in Theme 2 is to identify the processes which can contribute to explaining individual differences in age-related cognitive decline. Researchers are working to understand cognitive function by using brain imaging to analyse how the brain changes with time.  

In addition to studies on the brain, data will be collected on how cognitive decline influences people's social skills. It is known that social activities help people to stay mentally alert. Consequently, a study will be conducted of social activities in a group of healthy males with cognitive decline. The aim is to discover new possibilities for prevention and for improving quality of life.

What determines when we age?

The researchers will also be investigating whether early-life circumstances can explain why some people age faster than others. This is why the Center for Healthy Aging and the VELUX Foundation have invested considerable resources in gathering data from around 7,000 middle aged people for a major new biobank, Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB). 

CAMB integrates data from three existing studies which have comprehensive data on large samples of people throughout all or large parts of their lives. Access to this kind of data provides researches with a unique opportunity to study whether childhood circumstances influence for example their midlife muscle strength. The large amount of data on each individual make it possible to analyse associations among  muscle function, cognitive function and use of medication and to try to identify factors which may explain  why some individuals age fast and why others live to become very old.