Developing a tool for measuring the decision-making competence of older adults

Psychol Aging. 2010 Jun;25(2):271-88. doi: 10.1037/a0019106.


The authors evaluated the reliability and validity of a tool for measuring older adults' decision-making competence (DMC). A sample of 205 younger adults (25-45 years), 208 young-older adults (65-74 years), and 198 old-older adults (75-97 years) made judgments and decisions related to health, finance, and nutrition. Reliable indices of comprehension, dimension weighting, and cognitive reflection were developed. Comparison of the performance of old-older and young-older adults was possible in this study, unlike previous research. As hypothesized, old-older adults performed more poorly than young-older adults; both groups of older adults performed more poorly than younger adults. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that a large amount of variance in decision performance across age groups (including mean trends) could be accounted for by social variables, health measures, basic cognitive skills, attitudinal measures, and numeracy. Structural equation modeling revealed significant pathways from 3 exogenous latent factors (crystallized intelligence, other cognitive abilities, and age) to the endogenous DMC latent factor. Further research is needed to validate the meaning of performance on these tasks for real-life decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Comprehension
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Competency*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results