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  • Author: Jerri D. Edwards x
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Christine B. Phillips, Jerri D. Edwards, Ross Andel and Marcus Kilpatrick

Physical activity (PA) is believed to preserve cognitive function in older adulthood, though little is known about these relationships within the context of daily life. The present microlongitudinal pilot study explored within- and between-person relationships between daily PA and cognitive function and also examined within-person effect sizes in a sample of community-dwelling older adults. Fifty-one healthy participants (mean age = 70.1 years) wore an accelerometer and completed a cognitive assessment battery for five days. There were no significant associations between cognitive task performance and participants’ daily or average PA over the study period. Effect size estimates indicated that PA explained 0–24% of within-person variability in cognitive function, depending on cognitive task and PA dose. Results indicate that PA may have near-term cognitive effects and should be explored as a possible strategy to enhance older adults’ ability to perform cognitively complex activities within the context of daily living.

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David E. Vance, Karlene K. Ball, Daniel L. Roenker, Virginia G. Wadley, Jerri D. Edwards and Gayla M. Cissell

Falls can impair health and reduce quality of life among older adults. Although many factors are related to falling, few analyses examine causal models of this behavior. In this study, factors associated with falling were explored simultaneously using structural-equation modeling. A variety of cognitive, physical-performance, and health measures were administered to 694 older adult drivers from the state of Maryland. The observed and latent variables of age, cognitive ability, physical functioning, health, and falling behavior were used to create a causal model. The model revealed that being older was associated with declines in cognition, and such cognitive declines predicted increased falling. Similarly, poorer health was related to poorer physical functioning, which, in turn, also predicted increased falling. This model indicates that in addition to existing fall-prevention interventions aimed at improving physical functioning, interventions to improve cognition and health might also be effective. It is speculated that fear of falling, which often results in reduced mobility among older adults, might account for the lack of a direct relationship between age and falling. This hypothesis should be examined in further research.