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.
"Relatedly, early life experiences and environmental conditions in different cultures might influence the trajectory of cognitive aging (Melrose et al., 2015; Sisco et al., 2015), and research has found that continued social and intellectual engagement through everyday activities can stave off age-related decrements in fluid cognition (e.g., Carlson et al., 2008). In contrast to industrialized societies where retirement is normative, older adults in traditional societies remain involved in daily activities (Keith et al., 1994) and may thus maintain objectively higher levels of cognitive functioning. "
"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). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Finding effective training interventions for declining cognitive abilities in healthy aging is of great relevance, especially in view of the demographic development. Since it is assumed that transfer from the trained to untrained domains is more likely to occur when training conditions and transfer measures share a common underlying process, multi-domain training of several cognitive functions should increase the likelihood of such an overlap. In the first part, we give an overview of the literature showing that cognitive training using complex tasks, such as video games, leisure activities, or practicing a series of cognitive tasks, has shown promising results regarding transfer to a number of cognitive functions. These studies, however, do not allow direct inference about the underlying functions targeted by these training regimes. Custom-designed serious games allow to design training regimes according to specific cognitive functions and a target population's need. In the second part, we introduce the serious game Hotel Plastisse as an iPad-based training tool for older adults that allows the comparison of the simultaneous training of spatial navigation, visuomotor function, and inhibition to the training of each of these functions separately. Hotel Plastisse not only defines the cognitive functions of the multi-domain training clearly, but also implements training in an interesting learning environment including adaptive difficulty and feedback. We propose this novel training tool with the goal of furthering our understanding of how training regimes should be designed in order to affect cognitive functioning of older adults most broadly.
"While our study cannot draw causality, our findings on the four different types of social activities are in line with previous work on the potential benefits of social activities on cognitive health in late life. For instance, we identified altruism as a common social activity in late life, and studies have found that volunteer programs may help to improve memory in late life (Carlson et al., 2008). Other studies have found that creative activities may help older adults with cognitive and functional tasks, such as problem solving , skill building, and memory performance (Cohen, 2006; Fisher & Specht, 1999). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This qualitative study examines older adults’ subjective views on the types and purposes of social activities. In-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 20 older adults, with low (n = 10) and high (n = 10) memory performance. We used grounded theory methods to analyze the narrative data. Four types of social activities—altruism, creativity, game, and motion—were identified. The purpose of social activities included enjoyment, relaxation, stimulation, and belongingness. Those in the low memory group seemed to face more barriers to participation. Different types of social activities may be important for cognitive health and well-being.
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