Relationship between functional ability, cognitve reserve, personality, and executive functioining in older adults
Puente, Antonio Nicolas
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Medical advances have dramatically increased the average life expectancy, and as a result the number of older adults (OAs) experiencing functional impairment is growing exponentially. To decrease the impact of functional impairment it is necessary to understand all factors that impact OAs ability to complete activities of daily living, functional ability (FA). Previous research has documented the association between several factors and OAs’ FA; however, two factors that have yet to be comprehensively examined are Cognitive Reserve (CR) and personality. Overall a limited literature suggests CR is positively associated with FA, but it remains unclear if the magnitude of this relationship differs across the various ways to measure CR. It also has yet to be determined how CR is related to FA. Like CR, the relationship between personality and FA has been relatively ignored but preliminary evidence suggests two personality factors, Openness and Agreeableness, are positively associated with FA. Nonetheless, it also has yet to be determined how these personality factors are related to OAs’ FA. It was hypothesized that the relationship between CR and personality factors with FA would be due to a separate but positively related psychological construct, executive functioning (EF). Thus, overall this project had four aims. The primary aim of this dissertation was to clarify the relationship between CR and FA in community dwelling OAs. The second aim was to determine the impact of EF on the relationship between CR and FA. The third aim was to determine if previously documented relationships between personality factors and FA could be replicated. Finally, we aimed to understand how personality factors were related to FA. We found all CR proxies were positively related to FA, and that there were no significant differences between the various proxies and the magnitude of their relationship with FA. Mediation analyses revealed that the mechanism of action between CR and FA was EF. Despite null findings between Agreeableness and FA, the relationship between Openness and FA was replicated. Similar to CR, EF mediated its association with FA. Thus, future investigations should determine the effect on FA in OAs by improving EF.