tv 60 Minutes CBS August 31, 2014 7:00pm-8:02pm EDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford >> simon: security camera footage captured the scene at the upscale wafi mall. they drove right into the mall in two audis, crashed the cars into the doors of the graff jewelry store. then, in commando gear, jumped out, ran into the shop, seemed perfectly relaxed as they broke into glass cases and bagged diamonds worth $3.5 million. and then they got back in their cars and just drove away. >> they entered the door, broke all the glass in the cases, take the jewelry, and are out in less than 30 seconds and have a getaway plan. within a matter of hours, they're in another country. >> my birthday is february 7, 1918. >> stahl: men and women above the age of 90...
>> six miles. >> stahl: ...are now the fastest growing segment of the u.s. population. >> i am flying all over the place. >> stahl: and tonight, you will hear about groundbreaking research that may help us understand how to live a longer, healthier and happier life. fascinating findings about dementia, the benefits of weight gain as we age, the effects of vitamins, coffee and... what about alcohol? >> oh, alcohol made a difference. moderate alcohol is associated with living longer than individuals who did not consume alcohol. >> stahl: and after you pour another martini, you may want to check your gym membership. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes". >> simon: the largest, most
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>> simon: the largest, most successful gang of diamond thieves in the world is credited with over 370 heists worth $500 million, and it's getting bigger and more daring every year. the gang is composed of networks of teams who work together, in europe mostly. but they have done jobs in 35 countries as far afield as tokyo and dubai. they are ex-yugoslavs; many fought in the serbian special forces during the bosnian wars. they are called the pink panthers, and that's not a joke. they got their name from those famous peter sellers movies of the '70s and '80s, but as you
can well imagine, there are scores of jewelers and cops in many countries who do not find them funny at all. as we first reported in march, their exploits have become the stuff of legend, but what they did in dubai a few years ago shocked even the police officers who'd been after them for years. security camera footage captured the scene at the upscale wafi mall. they drove right into the mall in two audis, crashed the cars into the doors of the graff jewelry store. then, men in commando gear jumped out, ran into the shop, seemed perfectly relaxed as they broke into glass cases and bagged diamonds worth $3.5 million. then, they got back in their cars and just drove away. how did you react when you heard about the dubai heist? i mean, it was pretty brazen wasn't it? >> ron noble: i had to see the video to believe that they actually drove two cars through the mall, and then to do all
that in less than 45 seconds. yeah, it was... it was hard to believe. but it happened. >> simon: that's the world's chief cop who found it hard to believe. ron noble is secretary general of interpol, the global police organization based in lyon, france. >> noble: i'd say that they are the most notorious organized crime group that i've been involved in investigating in my life. >> simon: so, they're really good? >> noble: the problem is that they've become legendary because they are so good in their planning and their execution of robberies. >> simon: legendary, in part, because of their name. remember this scene from that hilarious peter sellers comedy where the thief hides the diamond in a jar of cold cream? well, these professional thieves did exactly the same thing after they hit a high-end jewelry store in london in 2003, making off with $40 million in diamonds.
that's how they became known as the pink panthers. incidentally, it was the largest jewel heist in british history. then, tokyo-- men wearing wigs entered luxury shops, immobilized clerks with pepper spray, and made off with diamonds, a tiara, and the comtesse de vendome necklace worth $30 million. copenhagen 2007-- a jewelry store inside a hotel. in front of stunned guests, three men raced through the lobby and into the store. they smashed glass cases and made off with more than a million dollars worth of stones. in the last 20 years, they have been responsible for a half a billion dollars in robberies. in all that time, there's been one fatality. what makes the panthers so successful, noble says, is how they do weeks of surveillance and preparation before an attack. these undercover shots show a team taking the measure of a
target before a hit. >> noble: the m.o. of the pink panthers is very clear-- they tend to use a woman to case the jewelry stores first. >> simon: an attractive woman. >> noble: attractive woman, woman wearing expensive clothing, woman wearing expensive jewelry. >> simon: a well-heeled man enters next, blocks the door open with his foot, and clears the path for the smash-and-grab men-- four people all together. precise timing and well-planned getaways are their trademark. >> noble: from the time they enter the door until they break all the glass in the cases, take the jewelry, and are out in less than 30 seconds. and then, they have a getaway plan. within a matter of hours, they're in another country. that's their classic m.o., if you will. >> simon: if the mafia grew out of sicily, the pink panthers are a product of montenegro and serbia, the now independent republics in what was once yugoslavia. they were allies in the brutal bosnian wars against the muslims. when u.n. sanctions halted the flow of products into the
country, groups of soldiers became professional smugglers. did many of them have paramilitary training? >> noble: the core were fighters during the war-- paramilitary training, very organized, very disciplined and ruthless. and those were the ones who started it back in '94, '95, '96. >> simon: so they learned their trade in the war? >> andrea scholz: yes, yes. they grown up with aggression. they know, if you want to have success in you life, you have to use force, and for them, it's common. >> simon: andrea scholz is a risk prevention consultant in germany who has been investigating the gang for ten years. so the distinctive thing about pink panthers from robbers in other countries is that, since they're so experienced in war, they are not afraid? >> scholz: they are not afraid, absolutely. >> simon: to date, interpol has identified 800 core pink panthers using photos, fingerprints, and dna.
they are notorious for using fake passports, which makes them very hard to catch. noble says, unlike the mafia, they have no chain of command. >> noble: they've got networks, and depending on the robbery, there's someone who organizes a particular robbery, but there are no kingpins. there's no al capone or john gotti at the top of the organized crime groups like classic or traditional organized crime. >> simon: they have specialists in everything, from alarms to safecracking to stealing cars, and those experts are not hard to find. do they have connections in every country? >> jan glassey: in europe, in quite every country, you have the balkan community, so they have the possibility to have a connection. in switzerland, we know that, and it's the same in france, in germany, in sweden, in denmark. >> simon: swiss detective jan glassey says geneva is one of their favorite cities because it's so rich. it's where billionaires come to shop and play. so they went into this store? >> glassey: they went inside
this store. >> simon: and if they get... if they only get 15 watches, they've made like a million bucks... >> glassey: yeah. >> simon: ...in 50 seconds. >> glassey: yeah, exactly. >> simon: this team, wearing wigs and sunglasses, robbed a luxury store on the rue de rhone, the street in geneva. they grabbed $4 million worth of diamonds and made their getaway in motorcycles down a street which was too narrow for police cars. so it's almost a sport between you and them, isn't it? >> glassey: it is. it is always a bit like that. i mean, they are always a step before us because they are changing the modus operandi. and yes, it's a little bit a cat and mouse game. >> simon: they are professionals. >> glassey: they are really, really professional. >> simon: there is no way for you to get there in time. >> glassey: no, no, no. for the cops, it is very difficult. normally, we can say between three and five minutes. >> simon: and by that time, they are in france. >> glassey: at that time, they are on the way to france. >> simon: a james bond blockbuster could be made out of what they did in st. tropez.
the roads get clogged in the summer. so, after posing as tourists and scoring more than $3 million worth of jewelry, the panthers made their getaway by sea. and when you hear that they got out of st. tropez in speed boats, are you thinking, "that's pretty good"? >> glassey: i really... all the cops are thinking that, "that's pretty good, but now we have a lot of job to do." ( laughs ) >> simon: we drove to the seaside town of ulcinj, montenegro, to meet a semi- retired pink panther who has been associated with that job. he calls himself "filip." he agreed to talk to us at a rented apartment in a secret location. we had to turn off our electronic devices before he appeared, and we agreed not to show his face. how many jobs have you done? >> filip: nine. >> simon: nine. what was your best robbery? >> filip: my best robbery? okay, my best robbery was in
france. my best robbery, it was very speedy. >> simon: very speedy. >> filip: yeah, very speedy, like speedy gonzalez. ( laughs ) it was good money and nobody hurt. >> simon: you get a couple of million euros in france, and then how did you get them someplace where you could get money? >> filip: i have connection everywhere. if i say everywhere, i mean everywhere. we go to belgium, we have friends. >> simon: when they go to belgium, they always drop in on antwerp, where gems worth billions are traded every day, >> patrick peys: we know that a lot of diamonds come to antwerp- - stolen diamonds, stolen jewelry. why do they come to antwerp? because the diamond trade is here in antwerp. >> simon: patrick peys is chief inspector of the antwerp diamond squad. >> peys: if you compare their volume and their value, the best
products in the world, of course. that's why diamonds are so much used in other criminal acts. >> simon: making matters worse for cops, only the most expensive diamonds have laser inscriptions with identifying numbers. and even then, large diamonds can be recut, making it impossible to tell whether or not they've been stolen. so from what you're saying, being a diamond thief isn't a bad career. ( laughs ) you make a lot of money, and the odds are with you that you're not going to get caught. >> peys: i wouldn't advise anybody to start that career, but yes, i can imagine that, from their view that, yeah, it's a living. it's a way of living, and the possibilities of getting caught are probably not that high. >> simon: and recently, we learned the pink panthers have started branching out. we know them as jewelry thieves. are they expanding their operations? >> noble: they're expanding their operations into art, and
very, very fine art. >> simon: in 2008, a group of armed and masked panthers hit this museum in zurich, making off with a monet, a van gogh, a degas and a cezanne. it was the largest art robbery in european history. the last of the paintings was recovered in april 2012 in a dramatic raid captured on videotape. a serbian swat team stormed this house to arrest the men accused of snatching the impressionist works. the cops took a van in for examination and found something hidden in the ceiling. when they pulled it out, they discovered it was cezanne's "boy in the red vest"-- estimated value, $113 million. but nailing a couple of panthers doesn't help the police nearly as much as they would like it to. if one of these guys gets caught, will he squeal? will he give evidence about the
other people, his partners? >> glassey: no, there is an omerta between them. >> simon: the omerta really works. >> glassey: the omerta really works, and when we are speaking of the best teams, a lot of them are really friends. that means they grew up together. >> simon: still, since 2007, hundreds of arrests have been made, but those panthers just keep on reproducing. and we understand there are approximately 180 new members in the last couple of years? >> noble: yes, so the next generation is being recruited. >> simon: and trained, presumably? >> noble: recruited and trained. >> simon: their daring has inspired legions of copycats. disguising themselves as women in burkas, these thieves robbed a jewelry store in a mall in bahrain. and this gang took to their motorcycles to rob a jewelry store in london. >> noble: the copycats are really just organized crime groups that have identified an
easy way to make money based on the celebrity status, i would say, in large part, of the pink panthers. >> simon: and the police admit that, unfortunately, they themselves didn't help matters when they started calling the gang "pink panthers." >> noble: the problem with this group is that the name "pink panthers," it engenders inside us the first memory is the movie. we smile at the name of pink panthers. >> simon: and here's why. >> does your dog bite? >> no. >> i thought you said your dog did not bite! >> that is not my dog! >> simon: and indeed, the first thing you think of when you hear "pink panthers" is comedy. >> noble: that's why we try to highlight, whenever we can, the way in which they perpetrate these robberies. these are not nice guys. these are not nice guys who are stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
these are just cold-blooded and ruthless and notorious thieves. >> cbs money watch update sponsored by lincoln financial. calling all chief life officers. >> glor: good evening. the city of detroit's bankruptcy trial, the largest municipal bankruptcy in u.s. history, starts on tuesday. atlantic city lost two casinos and 5,000 jobs in just the past three days. and the chinese online retail giant ali baba is reportedly set to hold its ipo next week. i'm jeff glor, cbs news.
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expectancy in this country by a remarkable 30 years-- from just 49 in 1900 to almost 79 today. and more and more of us are making it into that group we all hope, and kind of dread, joining, the over-90 crowd, affectionately dubbed "the oldest old." as we first reported this spring, men and women above the age of 90 are now the fastest- growing segment of the u.s. population. yet very little is known about the oldest old, since, until recently, there were so few of them so what determines which of us will make it past age 90? what kind of shape we'll be in if we do? and what can we do to up our odds? finding out is the goal of a groundbreaking research study known as "90-plus." >> jane whistler: i was born on april 21, 1914. >> ted rosenbaum: my birthday is february 7, 1918.
>> lou tirado: i was born on august 25, 1920, and i'm 93- plus. >> ruthy stahl: june 15, 1918, and it was, i'm sure, a lovely day. >> stahl: do you feel 95? what do you... what age do you feel? >> ruthy stahl: i feel about 52. ( laughs ) not really. >> stahl: what they have in common, other than having lived a combined total of almost 400 years, is that, decades ago, they all lived in a retirement community called leisure world 45 miles south of los angeles. >> hi, there, and welcome to leisure world, a new way of life designed for alert and active people 52 years or older who want to get the most out of life. >> stahl: today, it's still a retirement community, and they're still getting the most out of life, though it's no longer called leisure world. it's now its own city, laguna woods.
>> claudia kawas: they didn't like the words "leisure world." ( laughs ) they consider themselves active. >> stahl: "active world." >> kawas: "active world." >> stahl: dr. claudia kawas spends a lot of time in laguna woods these days. she's a neurologist and professor at nearby u.c. irvine, who discovered the research equivalent of gold here-- information gathered from thousands of leisure world residents back in 1981, with page after page of data about their diet, exercise, vitamins, and activities. >> kawas: 14,000 people answered this questionnaire in 1981. >> stahl: 14,000... >> kawas: many of them, if they were still alive, would now be over the age of 90. >> stahl: she saw a rare opportunity to study what worked and what didn't. so you... did you try to find them? >> kawas: we went after all 14,000. and if they were still alive, we wanted to find where they were. >> stahl: with $6 million of funding from the national institutes of health, kawas and her team set out to find out who had died, when they died, and to
convince those who were still living and over 90 to sign up. >> kawas: and you're how old now? >> whistler: i'll be 100 in three months. >> kawas: we're going to have to have a party. >> whistler: good! ( laughs ) i love a party. >> stahl: jane whistler is one of the more than 1,600 men and women they found and enrolled as subjects in the 90-plus study. they are checked from top to bottom every six months-- their facial muscles... reflexes... balance... how they walk... how fast they can stand up and sit down... and most importantly, how their minds are working. >> i'm going to say and show you three words for you to remember. shirt. brown. honesty. >> whistler: shirt. brown. honesty. >> perfect. >> now, please spell "world." >> stahl: they are given an hour-long battery of cognitive
and memory tests... >> good. now, spell "world" backwards. >> whistler: d-l-r-o-w. >> stahl: ...asked to connect letters and numbers... >> there you go. >> stahl: ...and to remember. >> all right. what three words did i ask you to remember earlier? >> whistler: brown. shirt. >> you want a little hint? >> whistler: yeah. >> okay. was that word "honesty," "charity"... >> whistler: honesty. >> yes. >> stahl: when it's time for your exams in the 90-plus study, do you look forward to it or... >> whistler: sure. >> stahl: do you ever say, "oh, they're going to find something" or, "i'm not going to be able to do as well as i did last time"? >> whistler: oh yeah, i think that. sure. >> stahl: you do. >> whistler: but that doesn't stop me. i think it's... i think it's fun. >> tirado: shirt, brown, honesty. >> stahl: we were struck by what great shape many of the study
participants are in, like lou tirado, a world war ii b-17 gunner who was shot down near berlin and spent eight months as a german p.o.w. and sid shero, another world war ii veteran, who came to talk to us despite having suffered a stroke just a few weeks earlier that slurred his speech. >> sid shero: i am 92 years old and going strong. >> stahl: sid drives his car to his test sessions. you drive a convertible? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: you want the girls to look at you. >> shero: they call it a "chick car." >> stahl: sid, a widower, works out at the fitness center, keeps up with the news, and the ladies. so, you're a bachelor. >> shero: yes. >> stahl: do you date? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: do you have a rich social life? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: is it fun? >> shero: yes. very much so. and i hope to last a long time. >> stahl: but, of course, not everyone is so lucky. when participants like louise
bigelow, age 97, are too frail to come in for testing, the testers go to them. >> an orange and a banana are alike because they're both... >> louise bigelow: yellow. >> stahl: louise remembers events from long ago, like when her bridal veil caught fire a few minutes after this photo was taken. >> bigelow: it went right into the flames of the candles. so i always had a lot of excitement all the time. ( laughter ) and that was the beginning. >> stahl: you're not going to forget that ever. >> bigelow: no. >> stahl: but when it comes to recent memories and thinking skills, she struggles more and more. >> and in what way are laughing and crying alike? >> bigelow: ugh. i don't know. >> ruthy stahl: brown, honesty, and, uh... shirt. >> stahl: the testers go to 95- year-old ruthy stahl's home,
too. they go not because she can't come to them. she just doesn't have time. >> ruthy stahl: i'm in my car more than i'm in the house, i think, because i... i do so many things. >> stahl: what do you do? >> ruthy stahl: i am flying all over the place. >> stahl: "flying," as in speed- walking three miles almost every day. >> ruthy stahl: on sunday, it's only two miles. ( laughs ) >> stahl: are you on the computer? >> ruthy stahl: yes, i am. but i'm having trouble with my computer. >> whistler: i had a computer for ten years and enjoyed it, but it died. >> stahl: jane outlived her computer. at almost 100, she's done a lot of outliving. >> whistler: we were all bridge players. we'd play bridge and have dinner, and we had a lot of fun. >> stahl: have some of them died? >> whistler: they've all died. >> stahl: they've all died. >> whistler: every one. >> stahl: oh, my goodness. >> whistler: i'm the only one
left. >> stahl: so what was it that got these people into their 90s... >> kawas: so you've never had a stroke. >> whistler: no. >> stahl: ...while their spouses, friends, and colleagues... >> kawas: never had hardly anything. >> stahl: ...dropped out along the way? >> kawas: what's your secret? >> whistler: i wish i knew. >> stahl: genes clearly contribute to longevity, says kawas, but they aren't everything. jane whistler's parents both died when she was young. >> kawas: well, whatever your secrets are, by being in the study, we're going to try to find them out. >> stahl: so you can go back and look at their medical history? >> kawas: everybody in the study filled out that questionnaire in the early 1980s. >> stahl: and comparing that data to how it's all turned out has yielded a slew of published findings about behaviors associated with living longer. so, what's the verdict? no surprise-- smokers died earlier than non-smokers. and what about exercise? >> kawas: people who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn't exercise. as little as 15 minutes a day, on average, made a difference. 45 was the best. even three hours didn't beat 45 minutes a day. >> stahl: oh, wow.
that's interesting. >> kawas: and it didn't all have to be at once. it could be, for example, 15 minutes of walking, and then later in the day, gardening or something. and it also didn't have to be very intense exercise. >> stahl: and non-physical activities-- book clubs, socializing with friends, board games-- all good. >> kawas: for every hour you spent doing activities in 1981, you increased your longevity, and the benefit of those things never leveled off. >> stahl: the subjects we spoke to had definitely been active, but they didn't strike us as having lived their lives worrying about their health. >> whistler: i'm not a big vitamin person. >> stahl: have you watched, over the years, what you ate? >> tirado: not... not really. >> stahl: dessert? >> whistler: sure. i love dessert. >> ruthy stahl: i always had a glass of wine before dinner. and now, i still do, but i can't quite finish it. >> stahl: clean living, huh? >> shero: no. >> stahl: no?
not clean living. >> shero: i don't know what clean living is. >> stahl: what about alcohol? >> whistler: sure, i love wine. >> stahl: do you take vitamins? >> shero: yes. a lot of them. >> stahl: so, which vitamins helped? anti-oxidants? okay, vitamin e. we... we're sitting at the edge of our chairs. did it make a difference, vitamin e? >> kawas: it was--my favorite, but uh-uh. >> stahl: no? >> kawas: people who took vitamin e didn't live any longer than people who didn't take vitamin e. >> stahl: they also looked at vitamin a, c, and calcium. >> kawas: the short answer is none of them made a difference... >> stahl: none of them made a difference to living a long life? >> kawas: ...in terms of how long you live. >> stahl: what about alcohol? >> kawas: oh, alcohol made a difference. >> stahl: but it may not be what you think. >> kawas: moderate alcohol was associated with living longer than individuals who did not consume alcohol. >> stahl: wait a minute-- moderate alcohol, you live longer? >> kawas: yes. >> stahl: up to two drinks a day led to a 10% to 15% reduced risk of death compared to non-
drinkers. >> whistler: isn't that exciting? ( laughter ) >> stahl: and any kind of alcohol seemed to do the trick. >> kawas: a lot of people like to say it's only red wine. in our hands, it didn't seem to matter. >> stahl: martinis-- just as good. >> kawas: yeah. >> stahl: and there's good news for coffee drinkers. caffeine intake equivalent to one to three cups of coffee a day was better than more or none. and if you're concerned about those bulging waistlines,listen to this. >> kawas: it turns out that the best thing to do as you age is to at least maintain or even gain weight. >> stahl: gain weight? >> kawas: uh-huh, really. >> stahl: so being a little overweight is... is good? >> kawas: being obese is never good. >> stahl: and being overweight as a young person wasn't good, either. but late in life, they found people who were overweight or average weight both outlived people who were underweight. >> kawas: it's not good to be
skinny when you're old. >> stahl: but living a long time, even if we don't have to watch our waistlines, isn't the only thing most of us care about. we want to be all there to enjoy it. and it's in the areas of alzheimer's and dementia that the 90-plus study is generating some of its most provocative and surprising findings. we'll tell you about that, and one more thing-- romance after 90... how's your sex life? ( laughter ) you brought it up! ...when we come back. >> and now a cbs sports update presented by pacific life. i'm adam zuker with results from the u.s. open. caroline wozniacki defeating maria sharapova in three sets. four of the top five women's seeds have now been eliminated. wozniacki will fairs sarah arani in the quarterfinals.
the four seed david ferrer was knocked out in four sets. the winner will face maren cilic. for more sports news, go to cbssports.com. for more than 145 years, pacific life has been helping families achieve life-long financial security with innovative tools and strategies. talk to a financial advisor to protect your family and plan today. pacific life. the power to help you succeed.
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>> stahl: we are a nation getting older. by the middle of the century, the number of americans age 90 and above is projected to quadruple. while that's good news for those of us who want to stick around, it also means more time, literally, to start to lose our minds. dementia, including that most dreaded form, alzheimer's disease, is a looming threat, and a primary focus of the 90- plus study. participants are asked to donate their brains to the study after they die, so researchers can compare what they saw in life to the secrets buried deep within.
and the picture isn't always matching up, bringing new discoveries and new questions about what may actually be causing dementia in the oldest old, and what we may be able to do about it. you know, i think that it was common belief that if you got to 90 and you didn't have dementia or alzheimer's, that you weren't going to get it. >> kawas: unfortunately, no. i really, really expected to find that. but in our study, that's not to happen. >> stahl: it's not true. >> kawas: no. >> stahl: it turns out the risk of developing dementia doubles every five years, starting at the age of 65, and it keeps right on doubling. and given the growth in numbers of the oldest old by mid- century... >> kawas: we are going to have more people with dementia over the age of 90 than we currently have at all ages put together. >> stahl: and we're not even thinking about it.
>> kawas: we should be. >> stahl: as charming and engaging as all the 90-plusers we met were, one who we were particularly moved by was 96- year-old ted rosenbaum, a former american history teacher who's been married for 63 years. >> ted rosenbaum: i was very lucky. so now, at this stage of the game, if it's petering out, just reminiscing about our past is a source of incalculable joy. >> an orange and a banana are alike because they're both...? >> rosenbaum: fruits. >> stahl: ted did well on parts of the 90-plus exam, like repeating long strings of numbers backwards. >> six, one, eight, four, three. >> rosenbaum: three, four, eight, one, six. >> stahl: but when it came time
to remember the three words she had told him just 40 seconds earlier... >> rosenbaum: three words... give me a hint. >> stahl: ...he was lost. and that wasn't his only problem. >> what is today's date? >> rosenbaum: today's date? >> uh-huh. >> rosenbaum: today's date? >> stahl: does he have dementia, at this point? >> kawas: yes. ted has dementia. >> stahl: he does. >> kawas: you know, unfortunately there's no blood test, there's no x-ray. it's an examiner finding out that an individual has problems in two or more of the main things the brain does for them. so that's where he is. >> stahl: and what's perhaps the most devastating is he knows it. >> rosenbaum: my worst condition is my memory. >> stahl: when you can't
remember something, what goes on inside you? >> rosenbaum: terrible frustration and terrible... you know, it's... it's having more and more of a negative impact on me, psychologically. >> stahl: determining what's behind his memory loss isn't easy, since diseases like alzheimer's can only be definitively diagnosed in the brain after death. so it's after the 90-plusers die that a new round of sleuthing begins. when subjects in the study donate their brains, they come here to neuropathologist dr. ronald kim. he showed us one of the things he always looks for, the plaques and tangles in the brain that are the telltale signs of alzheimer's disease. >> ronald kim: it forms all of these plaques. >> stahl: all these brown spots are plaques? >> kim: yes. are plaques, that's correct. and in an individual like this, i would expect the patient to be demented. >> do you read newspapers every day? >> loring bigelow: yes, i read them in the evening.
>> stahl: loring bigelow spent five years in the study. he passed away last summer, and while dr. kim studies his brain, the rest of the 90-plus team independently reviews years of his test results and videos to assess whether he had developed dementia, and if so, from what? while early on, his scores were strong... >> who is our president? >> loring bigelow: obama. >> stahl: over the years, there was a gradual but unmistakable decline. he'd pick up a newspaper he had just finished, use the tv remote to try and make a phone call. >> do you know who is the president? >> loring bigelow: i want to say herbert hoover. ( laughs ) i can't think of it. >> could not remember his age, anxious. >> stahl: the consensus here was likely alzheimer's, which presumes a brain with plaques and tangles. >> kawas: are we ready to hear
the truth? >> stahl: only then do they open up dr. kim's report. >> plaques, zero. so, no plaques. >> oh, okay. ah. >> kawas: wow! >> no plaques. no cortical tangles anywhere. >> kawas: pretty amazing. >> stahl: what's amazing is they're finding that 40% of the time in people over 90, what doctors would think is alzheimer's isn't. in loring bigelow's brain, dr. kim found something else, something the 90-plus study is finding quite a bit-- evidence of tiny, microscopic strokes called micro-infarcts. his brain was full of them. >> kim: here is a micro-infarct. it's the hole... >> stahl: oh, right here. >> kim: ...which is basically a tiny stroke. >> kawas: so you've got all this tissue is missing. >> kim: if you find one, it suggests that you should probably look for others. and some patients may have hundreds or thousands of them. >> stahl: these microscopic stroes are insidious because people don't even know they're having them. >> kim: they can be totally silent. and slowly but surely, over
time, you're picking off... you're disconnecting your cortex from the rest of the brain, and then you start to become demented. it can look just like alzheimer's disease, clinically. >> stahl: do you know anything we can do to prevent these mini strokes? >> kawas: i wish i did. but i will soon, i hope. >> stahl: kawas suspects one thing that may cause them is low blood pressure, and she has some evidence. while none of the factors from the original leisure world study-- vitamins, alcohol, caffeine, even exercise -- seemed to lower people's risk of getting dementia, the 90-plus study discovered that high blood pressure did. >> kawas: if you have high blood pressure, it looks like your risk of dementia is lower than if you don't have high blood pressure. >> stahl: lower? wait-- high blood pressure, lower risk of dementia? >> kawas: in a 90-year-old. >> stahl: high blood pressure is still dangerous if you're younger, yet another reason she says it's so important to study the oldest old.
>> kawas: most of what we know, we study in much younger individuals-- in 50-, 60-, maybe 70-year-olds. and then, we just kind of assume that the same thing should happen in older people. >> stahl: and you're saying we shouldn't? >> kawas: i think we shouldn't. >> stahl: take this next counterintuitive finding-- this time, in the 90- plus subjects who have no dementia. >> kawas: we're finding out that if you die without dementia in this age group, about half the time, you still have plaques and tangles in your head. >> stahl: no? so you can exhibit alzheimer's and not have plaques and tangles half the time, and the reverse... >> kawas: both directions. >> stahl: ...you're fine and you do have plaques and tangles? so what do you make of that? >> kawas: i mean, one possibility is that plaques and tangles have nothing to do with it. but it might be that plaques and tangles are very, very important, but just a 90-year- old who has them and didn't develop thinking problems has some way of getting around them that maybe all the rest of us would like to know. >> stahl: so now, they're
looking at people with no signs of dementia like ruthy stahl, lou tirado, sid shero, and jane whistler to see if they have plaques and tangles, but are not affected by them. there's a new type of p.e.t. scan that, for the first time, makes it possible to find plaques during life, so the 90- plus study is engaged in the delicate task of putting 99- year-olds like jane whistler into scanners. sid shero, at 92, hopped right in. >> kawas: jane and sid both have very, very, very good thinking, as you saw. >> stahl: yes, definitely. >> kawas: and it turns out that one of their scans is positive and one is negative. >> stahl: she showed them to us one on top of the other. yellow and red indicate the presence of amyloid plaque. >> kawas: so this is miss whistler, and this is mr. shero. >> stahl: well, i'm surprised, having talked to him, that i'm seeing yellow and red here. kind of stunning.
so, what does that mean for sid? the positive scan means, statistically, he's at greater risk of cognitive decline, but dr. kawas says the fact he's doing so well, in spite of the plaque in his brain and his stroke, means he may have that something protective and special that could help the rest of us. she says they'll be keeping a close watch on him. if it's unclear that the pathology hooks up with what you're seeing, what does that mean, in your mind? >> kawas: i think we're looking for too simple an answer. i think we want one thing to explain alzheimer's. look at something different, like what makes skin wrinkle. well, i mean, getting older makes skin wrinkle, being in the sun too much makes skin wrinkle, not taking care of your diet. and you put them all together and they all contribute. and i think it might turn out to be the same for our thinking,
especially in late life, that it's not just alzheimer's pathology from plaques, or not just micro-infarcts, but the number of these hits that you take. and after a while you can't withstand them all. >> stahl: there's one last thing we wondered about in the over-90 crowd, and that's romance. helen weil, 92, and henry tornell, 94, both widowed, have been dating for three years. so, do you see each other every day, several times every day, once a day? how does it work? >> henry tornell: she gets one day off a week. >> helen weil: ( laughs ) it's true-- tuesdays. >> stahl: tuesdays is a day off. >> weil: it's my day off. >> stahl: helen and henry love being part of the 90-plus study, and both have signed up to donate their brains after they die. henry has only one problem with the whole enterprise-- what the study hasn't asked about. >> tornell: i asked them, "aren't you going to ask us any questions about our sex life?" and they said no. >> stahl: well, i will. how's your sex life?
( laughter ) you brought it up. >> weil: see, he is funny, you know that... >> stahl: well, i don't know. i think... i'm not laughing. how is your sex life? ( laughter ) >> weil: he's blushing. >> stahl: he's blushing. but is that part of... do you think that has something to do with... >> tornell: i would say it has a big part. >> stahl: helen? >> weil: we are very... we are very affectionate. >> stahl: but do you think that sex is an important part of staying young? >> tornell: yes. >> stahl: the 90-plus study has just gotten another five-year round of n.i.h. funding to delve deeper into risk factors for specific types of dementia, like those micro-infarcts, and to search for genes that may be protective, in their continuing search for the secrets of the oldest old. >> kawas: i really believe that, when we learn things from the 90-year-olds, they're going to be helping the 60- and 70-year- olds-- not just how to become 90-year-olds, but how to do it with style and as good a
function as possible. >> stahl: well, obviously, you've already started that by telling us that we should have some wine, that we should have some coffee. >> kawas: and socialize. and exercise. >> stahl: and gain weight. >> kawas: and that's my favorite. >> stahl: my favorite too, absolutely. and maybe a little something else! ( "save the last dance for me" playing ) >> weil: ♪ save the last dance for me... ( laughs ) >> stahl: we are happy to report that all the 90-plusers in our story are still going strong. several have celebrated birthdays since our story aired, including jane whistler, who had a big one. she is now 100. >> for unforgettable moments from the lives of 90-plusers, go to 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by pfizer. [ female announcer ] hands were made for talking.
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