Objective: Do lifestyle activities buffer normal aging-related declines in cognitive performance? The emerging literature will benefit from theoretically broader measurement of both lifestyle activities and cognitive performance, and longer-term longitudinal designs complemented with dynamic statistical analyses. We examine the temporal ordering of changes in lifestyle activities and changes in cognitive neuropsychological performance in older adults.
Method: We assembled data (n = 952) across a 12-year (5-wave) period from the Victoria Longitudinal Study. Latent change score models were applied to examine whether (and in which temporal order) changes in physical, social, or cognitive lifestyle activities were related to changes in three domains of cognitive performance.
Results: Two main results reflect the dynamic coupling among changes in lifestyle activities and cognition. First, reductions in cognitive lifestyle activities were associated with subsequent declines in measures of verbal speed, episodic memory, and semantic memory. Second, poorer cognitive functioning was related to subsequent decrements in lifestyle engagement, especially in social activities.
Conclusions: The results support the dual contention that (a) lifestyle engagement may buffer some of the cognitive changes observed in late life, and (b) persons who are exhibiting poorer cognitive performance may also relinquish some lifestyle activities.