Eric D. Widmer

Sauter, J., Widmer, E., Ihle, A., & Kliegel, M. (2019). The association of leisure activities in middle adulthood with cognitive performance in old age: Social capital mediates cognitive reserve effects. Psychology & Neuroscience, 12(2), 236.

One of the fundamental challenges for neuropsychological aging research is how to maintain and promote cognitive functioning in old age. Previous research revealed that an active lifestyle, social participation, and emotional support during adulthood seem to be protective against cognitive decline in old age. However, up to now, a detailed examination of the interplay of these relations based on a broader variety of past activities and considering the individual’s available social capital is missing. The present study seeks to extend the literature by investigating the interactions of family based social capital as a mediator between the build-up of cognitive reserve (via the engagement in a broad variety of past leisure activities) and old age cognitive functioning in a large sample of older adults with a wide age range. A total of 2,788 older adults (aged 65–101 years) served as the sample for the present study. A test on verbal abilities, one on processing speed and one on cognitive flexibility were applied. In addition, individuals were retrospectively interviewed regarding their family network and regarding received and given support within it, as well as regarding 18 leisure activities (carried out at age 45). Present results suggest that network size as well as the given support within the family network mediate the relation between having an active lifestyle during middle adulthood and better cognitive functioning in old age. These findings are discussed with respect to models of cognitive reserve and cognitive aging. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

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