The young ones

Scientists and experts are constantly looking to find a way of staying youthful well into our retirement but could the prevention of ageing really be as simple as tricking the body? Those who tuned into the recent BBC mini series The Young Ones will already have a good idea of the answer.

Michael Mosley recently sent six celebrities to live in his science lab, a house in the countryside decorated to replicate the 1970s heyday of those who were about to call it their home for the next week.

The idea of the experiment was to see if the six celebrities, Liz Smith (88), Sylvia Syms (76) and Lionel Blair (78), cricket umpire Dickie Bird (77), newsreader Kenneth Kendall (86) and former Daily Mirror editor Derek Jameson (80) experienced a change from dressing, acting and talking like they did in their youth.

The celebrities agreed to live in the house for one week, during which they were required to dress in 1970s clothes, sleep in replicas of their own 70s bedrooms, watch T.V from that era and talk about 1975 in the present tense.

It was made clear to the volunteers from the very beginning that they would have to look after themselves and there would be no interventions or help given from the team of experts watching them closely. Though this initially may seem harsh, especially due to the amount of hazards (stairs, door ridges, linoleum floors, shag pile carpets), research conducted on nursing homes has clearly found that giving the residents control over their own life and choices has a hugely positive impact on both health and happiness.

Their first challenge upon entering their new environment was to carry their suitcases up the stairs, a task which many of them deemed impossible as they hadn’t engaged in such a level of physical activity in many years. However after an initial struggle they all succeeded, proving they were capable of far more than they gave themselves credit for.

Throughout the week each celebrity was given certain tasks to do as well as being left to fend entirely for themselves, both of which resulted in huge mental and physical changes over the course of the experiment.

The halfway point saw Liz Smith take 148 steps with the aid of just one stick. A huge achievement for someone who heavily relied on the use of her wheelchair and had not walked since her stroke.

Once the week was up the volunteers were put through their second lot of physical and psychological tests (the first were completed at the start of experiment).

The results showed that memory, mood, flexibility, stamina and eyesight had improved in almost everyone and in some cases they had shed up to 20 years of their apparent biological age.

Perhaps the saying ‘you are only as old as you feel’ has a lot more to it than we thought!

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Emma Hilton

Written by Emma Hilton

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