The Super-Seniors Study: Phenotypic Characterization of a Healthy 85+ Population

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Graduate student (PhD)
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Halaschek-Wiener J, Tindale LC, Collins JA, Leach S, McManus B, Madden K, et al. (2018) The Super-Seniors Study: Phenotypic characterization of a healthy 85+ population. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0197578. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197578.

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To understand why some people live to advanced age in good health and others do not, it is important to study not only disease, but also long-term good health. The Super-Seniors Study aims to identify factors associated with healthy aging.


480 healthy oldest-old ‘Super-Seniors’ aged 85 to 105 years and never diagnosed with cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, or major pulmonary disease, were compared to 545 mid-life controls aged 41–54, who represent a group that is unselected for survival from late-life diseases. Health and lifestyle information, personal and family medical history, and blood samples were collected from all participants. Super-Seniors also underwent four geriatric tests.


Super-Seniors showed high cognitive (Mini-Mental State Exam mean = 28.3) and functional capacity (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale mean = 21.4), as well as high physical function (Timed Up and Go mean = 12.3 seconds) and low levels of depression (Geriatric Depression Scale mean = 1.5). Super-Seniors were less likely to be current smokers than controls, but the frequency of drinking alcohol was the same in both groups. Super-Seniors were more likely to have 4 or more offspring; controls were more likely to have no children. Female Super-Seniors had a mean age of last fertility 1.9 years older than controls, and were 2.3 times more likely to have had a child at ≥ 40 years. The parents of Super-Seniors had mean ages of deaths of 79.3 years for mothers, and 74.5 years for fathers, each exceeding the life expectancy for their era by a decade.


Super-Seniors are cognitively and physically high functioning individuals who have evaded major age-related chronic diseases into old age, representing the approximately top 1% for healthspan. The familiality of long lifespan of the parents of Super-Seniors supports the hypothesis that heritable factors contribute to this desirable phenotype.

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Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)