Columbia University

To investigate how mental stimulation through different types of activities affects cognitive performance in later life and to determine the unique and overlapping contributions of these activities

  • Amount $450,000
  • City New York, NY
  • Investigator Ursula Staudinger
  • Year 2015
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Working Longer

Studies show that cognitive abilities tend to decline postretirement, and that continuation of work or work-like activity can slow cognitive decline. What is less well understood, however, is exactly which activities are most conducive to maintaining cognitive productivity. This grant funds efforts by Ursula Staudinger, director of the Columbia University Center on Aging, to understand whether and to what degree activities that involve novel information processing play a role in arresting cognitive decline.   Combining aspects of three well-respected longitudinal studies, the Health and Retirement Study, the Midlife in America Study, and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, Staudinger and her team will catalog the work and leisure activities of respondents and characterize the ways in which these activities involve the processing of new information. Comparing these activities with health data on cognitive decline will then permit an estimation of the role novel processing plays in sustaining mental productivity. The resulting research promises to provide important new evidence that will help us better understand how to optimize cognitive aging and identify the individuals or groups whose activity patterns place them at particular risk for cognitive decline.

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