20 years later, lessons on aging from the 'Nun Study' resonate today
July 12, 2021
by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans | Global Sisters Report
When it comes to aging gracefully, nuns could teach the rest of us a thing or two. That's essentially what gerontologist David Snowdon argued 20 years ago in the wake of a study that is still generating interest among neurologists and other scientists looking for clues to stemming diseases like Alzheimer's.
The irony is that the so-called "Nun Study" relies on the donated brains of sisters who had agreed that he and other scientists could study them to learn more about the causes and effects of Alzheimer's disease on that organ.
Based on 25 years of research on a population of 678 American School Sisters of Notre Dame (Snowdon notes a remarkable 66% of eligible nuns participated), it was written in accessible prose suitable for readers eager to glean the secrets of healthy aging. The volume was titled: Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives (Bantam Books, 2001).
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Pictured right: Sr. Benilda Nadolski, 99, left, the eldest of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph and in the 79th year of her religious profession, converses with Sr. Marcia Ann Fiutko, center, and Sr. Alexine Machowicz, 89, at St. Francis Park this past spring. (Courtesy of Marcia Ann Fiutko)