Aging is something we all face. As we age, our reaction times slow down and our ability to switch between tasks diminishes. You might notice, for example, that you have greater difficulty recalling recent events, or that cooking a complex meal has become more challenging. We would all like to age gracefully, maintain our cognitive abilities, and our independence for as long as possible.
Can we prevent cognitive decline? Work by Dr. John Anderson suggests this is possible to a degree. But it requires a lifetime investment in building cognitive reserve via intense engagement with cognitively challenging activities (whether through education, learning multiple languages, or a cognitively challenging career), while simultaneously avoiding risk factors such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, and depression. Dr. Anderson also studies contextual factors older adults can use to scaffold their performance such as doing their most challenging activities in the morning (an optimal circadian time for most older adults).
Research by Dr. Kathleen Van Benthem and Dr. Chris Herdman focuses on extending the mobility of mature adults in the community by finding ways to properly assess and support older drivers. This work has also been applied to older pilots.
Dr. Bruce Wallace’s work focuses on how the average older person can use technology to adapt the environment to their needs, thereby allowing them to stay in their homes for longer. This includes ambient smart home technology that can alert seniors, their family, and their healthcare providers of concerning changes or trends, well before these changes become dangerous.