Comparing Age Effects in Normally and Extremely Highly Educated and Intellectually Engaged 65 - 80 Year-olds: Potential Protection from Deficit Through Educational and Intellectual Activities Across the Lifespan

Author(s): Vera Schumacher, Mike Martin.

Journal Name: Current Aging Science

Volume 2 , Issue 3 , 2009

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Abstract:

Education and cognitive activity have been suggested to protect against cognitive decline in old age. However, little is known about the long-term effects of extremely high levels of education and intellectual activity across the lifespan. The present study investigated the extent to which these two variables may moderate the age-related differences in cognitive performance in old adults. Therefore, story recall, paired-associates learning, reading span and letter digit performance of 62 university professors (mean age = 72.47) were compared with those of a representative sample of 196 participants of the Zurich Longitudinal Study of Cognitive Aging (mean age = 73.04). The results demonstrate that the highly educated sample performed significantly better than the normally educated sample in the paired-associates learning and reading span test. Furthermore, age effects were found in the letter digit as well as in the paired-associates learning test. While the normally educated sample demonstrated an age-related decrease in the paired-associates learning test, the performance of the highly educated sample actually increased with increasing age. These findings suggest that extremely high levels of education and intellectual activity may postpone age-related deficits in paired-associates learning tasks, but not in speed of processing tasks.

Keywords: Education, protection factor, cognitive performance, typical intellectual engagement

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Article Details

VOLUME: 2
ISSUE: 3
Year: 2009
Page: [200 - 204]
Pages: 5
DOI: 10.2174/1874609810902030200
Price: $58

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