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Cognitive abilities in late life, proximity to death and distance from birth

Conference paper
Authors Boo Johansson
Valgeir Thorvaldsson
S Hofer
N. L. Pedersen
S Berg
G.E. McClearn
Published in Cognitive abilities in late life, proximity to death and distance from birth. Paper presented at the 18th Nordic Congress in Gerontology, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Cognition, terminal decline, longitudinal
Subject categories Psychology


Intra-individual change and continuity in cognitive abilities were examined as a conditional function of distance from birth (chronological age) and death in two Swedish population-based samples drawn from the H70 (70+; age-homogenous design) and the OCTO Twin (80+; age-heterogeneous design) studies. Examined cognitive domains included mental speed, memory, fluid, and crystallized abilities Three alternative time-based modelling approaches were used to fit the data a) an age-related approach b) a time-to–death-related approach, and c) a dual time structure component ap-proach including both age- and death-related time components. The death-related time structure accounts better for the data and age-related changes were largely attenuated when accounting for death-related changes, but death-related changes were relatively unaffected by the age-related sources of variance. The results emphasize that the reliance on age as a basic time structure in cognitive aging re-search can be doubtful and the importance of identifying diseases, co-morbidity and other health-related factors that account for cognitive decline in later life. Future studies need to identify and evaluate more specifically the time-related processes that increase the likelihood of death and produce decline in brain and cognitive functioning in later life.

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