Quality of Life
and Real Life Cognitive Functioning
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The central themes of this project are cognitive
functioning (i.e thinking, reasoning, problem solving) and determinants
of quality of life (QoL) in older individuals. Abilities that
may be relatively well-maintained in old age, such as real-life,
social and emotional problem solving will be investigated, and
their relationship with QoL determined.
These problem solving questions have been devised
in consultation with local older adults in order to guarantee
that the problems are, in general, relevant to this age range.
This is necessary in light of recent evidence which suggests that
level of performance in problem solving tasks is maximal when
the problems are tailored to the age and experience of the recipients.
In addition, traditional measures of intelligence and memory,
designed for use with adults of all ages, will be administered.
It is expected that these will be a less reliable indicator of
QoL in this age group.
Other components of cognitive functioning will be
assessed, including lay concepts of cognitive functioning, attitudes
to ageing and participation in cognitively challenging leisure
activities with a view to determining their relationship to perceived
QoL. Through in-depth interviews investigating individuals' implicit
theories of their cognitive functioning, it is hoped to assess
their perspectives of their own mental abilities and to determine
the extent to which they deliberately engage in activities which
will maintain their functioning.
The individuals to be included in this study were
involved in a project which was carried in 1972. As part of this
project, various aspects of individuals' health was recorded and
this information is available for the current study. Therefore,
an innovative feature of the present study will be to examine
the relationship between previous health status and current cognitive
Aims and Objectives
The broad aim of this project is to investigate
the factors that predict the QoL of older adults.
The project will investigate the following hypotheses:
Mid-life risk factors will predict cognitive
functioning in old age.
||Social and emotional functioning
will be better predictors of perceived QoL than psychometric
||'Real-life' problem solving abilities
will be a better predictor of perceived QoL than traditional
||Age-related declines will be largest
on psychometric cognitive tests, with socio-emotional functioning
showing less or no decline.
A sample of 240 individuals aged 70 years and over
who took part in the Paisley-Renfrew Epidemiological Study in
1972 will be selected for participation in this study. A structured
programme of interviews and selected tasks (psychometric, 'real-world'
problem solving etc.) will be carried out to measure cognitive
functioning and QoL of older adults. In addition, lay concepts
of changes in cognitive functioning with age will be examined
via in-depth interviews.
By investigating the variables which explain the
maintenance of good cognitive functioning in older adults, it
may be possible to influence future service provision. For example,
training programmes aimed at preventing cognitive decline and
encouraging mental stimulation could be developed. Such programmes
could be administered by community care workers and may allow
individuals to remain independent for a longer period, thus reducing
the need for residential and nursing care.