Unveiling the cognitive underpinnings of instrumental activities of daily living across age

Mario Alfredo Parra, Clara Calia, Serge Hoefeijzers, Mei Yii Lim, Nicola Sobieraj, Maria Gutierrez, Ruth Aylett

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Healthy ageing is accompanied by a slow but progressive decline of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) (Jagger et al., 2001). In abnormal ageing trajectories, such IADL show a steeper decline. Yet, we lack reliable tools to precisely detect those changes signalling departure from healthy ageing (Nygard, 2003). This project investigates which specific cognitive impairments account for the normal age-related decline of IADL. We aim to gather evidence informing when such decline no longer signals normality late in life.Methods: We asked 12 healthy young and 12 healthy older adults to perform a theory-driven multiple errand task (MET) and a brief neuropsychological test battery. The MET requested participants to memorise 6 everyday kitchen errands each compromising from 8 to 10 subtasks in a specific order. Kitchen items were real and typical of such an environment. During the MET, participants experienced controlled interferences to which they had to react (e.g., count the shelves when dogs bark). The experimenter scored accuracy, actions missed, order errors, intrusions, etc.Results: Both groups required similar amount of time to study the MET[t(17) = 0.586; p= 0.57]. Healthy older adults took significantly longer to perform them [t(17) = -4.245; p< 0.001]. When the subtasks order was considered, younger adults outperformed older adults [t(22) = 2.745; p= 0.012]. Such differences disappeared when order was not considered [t(22) = 2.074; p= 0.055]. Healthy older adults made significantly more subtask order errors [t(22) = -2.473; p= 0.022], errand order errors [t(15.577) = -2.984; p= 0.009], and intrusions [t(12) = -2.448; p= 0.031]. Speed of processing accounted for accuracy with (r=0.653, p=0.001) and without order (r=0.476; p=0.019), order error (r=-0.634, p =0.001), and inhibition of interference (r=-0.502, p =0.012).Conclusions: Speed of processing has been considered a biomarker of cognitive ageing (Deary et al., 2010). Our study indicates that it does account for the majority of challenges older adults encounter during IADL. Such knowledge should be considered by the new generation of IADL tests (e.g., relying on Informatics Technologies) as this theory incorporated to such tools will help distinguish normal and abnormal ageing trajectories.References:Deary, I. J., Johnson, W., & Starr, J. M. (2010). Are processing speed tasks biomarkers of cognitive aging? Psychol. Aging, 25(1), 219-228.Jagger, C., Arthur, A. J., Spiers, N. A., & Clarke, M. (2001). Patterns of onset of disability in activities of daily living with age. J Am Geriatr Soc, 49(4), 404-409. Nygard, L. (2003). Instrumental activities of daily living: a stepping-stone towards Alzheimer's disease diagnosis in subjects with mild cognitive impairment? Acta Neurol. Scand. Suppl, 179, 42-46.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
EventAlzheimer’s Association International Conference - Chicago, United States
Duration: 22 Jul 2018 → …


ConferenceAlzheimer’s Association International Conference
Abbreviated titleAAIC
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Period22/07/18 → …


  • Virtual reality
  • Older adults
  • Assessment
  • Activity of daily living


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