Exploring the Effects of an "Everyday" Activity Program on Executive Function and Memory in Older Adults: Experience Corps(R)

Department of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
The Gerontologist (Impact Factor: 3.21). 12/2008; 48(6):793-801. DOI: 10.1093/geront/48.6.793
Source: PubMed


There is little empirical translation of multimodal cognitive activity programs in "real-world" community-based settings. This study sought to demonstrate in a short-term pilot randomized trial that such an activity program improves components of cognition critical to independent function among sedentary older adults at greatest risk.
We randomized 149 older adults to Experience Corps (EC) or a wait-list control arm. Participants randomized to EC trained in teams to help elementary school children with reading achievement, library support, and classroom behavior for 15 hr/week during an academic year. We compared baseline and follow-up assessments of memory, executive function (EF), and psychomotor speed at 4 to 8 months by intervention arm, adjusting for exposure duration. We observed a range of EF abilities at baseline and stratified analyses according to the presence of baseline impairment using established norms.
Overall, EC participants tended to show improvements in EF and memory relative to matched controls (ps < .10). EC participants with impaired baseline EF showed the greatest improvements, between 44% and 51% in EF and memory at follow-up, compared to declines among impaired-EF controls (ps < .05).
Short-term participation in this community-based program designed to increase cognitive and physical activity in a social, real-world setting may train memory and, particularly, executive functions important to functional independence. This community-based program represents one potentially effective model to bring high doses of sustainable cognitive exercise to the greatest proportion of older adults, particularly those sedentary individuals at elevated risk for health disparities.

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    • "This article is published online with Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License. U n c o r r e c t e d A u t h o r P r o o f 2 I.M. McDonough et al. / Cognitive engagement increases brain modulation studies is the Experience Corps program in which 44 older adults spent sustained periods of time partner- 45 ing with elementary school students, teaching them 46 literacy skills, library support, and classroom etiquette 47 (Carlson et al., 2008, 2009). When compared to a wait- 48 list control group, the older adults who participated in 49 the program showed improvement in episodic "
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    • "The intervention group underwent an intense 2-week training and instruction phase and was then placed into a school where they volunteered in different roles (e.g., supporting literacy development, helping children find library books, fostering conflict resolution skills) for at least 15 h over 3–4 days a week during a 9-month school year. Participants in the intervention group reported increased physical, social, and cognitive activity levels (Fried et al., 2004) and showed improvements in memory and executive function (Carlson et al., 2008), while there was a slight decrease in the waitlist control group (for study details see Table 1). In the Senior Odyssey program (Stine-Morrow et al., 2008), participants prepared a tournament that consisted of on-site challenges that had to be solved spontaneously (problem solving tasks or handicrafts) and long-term problems that had to be prepared in a 6-month preparation phase of 20 group meetings led by a coach (e.g., presenting a new interpretation of a classical piece of literature). "
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