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Research / Discovery

Aging research study celebrates 100th participant

January 30, 2013

Ongoing work at Fort Collins Senior Center shedding light on cognitive abilites of aging population.

Ongoing study: ACCS team members include (left to right) research assistants Alexandria Yerkes-Klatt and Sarah Ketchum; Fort Collins Senior Center Operations Supervisor Barbara Schoenberger; 100th study participant Marqueena Cleaver; research assistant Rachel Fitch, and study director Allison Bielak, Ph.D.

On Jan. 23, the Activity Characteristics and Cognition Study celebrated testing its 100th participant, Marqueena Cleaver, at the Fort Collins Senior Center. The study run by Allison Bielak, Ph.D., in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, has been ongoing since May 2012.

Participants 60 years of age and older complete a two-hour individualized testing session at the Fort Collins Senior Center, followed by two weeks of logging their activities.

The research team thanked the Fort Collins Senior Center for providing the space for these interviews, and thanked the staff and volunteers for graciously accommodating their testing needs.

The purpose of the study is to compare different ways of measuring social, mental, and physical activity participation, and evaluate their link to cognitive abilities such as memory and reasoning in older age. Despite popular belief that participating in activities like crossword puzzles, dinner with friends, and walking affects cognitive abilities in older adulthood, this research is not entirely clear.

Some research studies find that being active is related to having a better memory and faster reaction time, but other studies find no link at all. These conflicting findings might be because of how activity participation is measured.

New way to measure everyday activities

The Activity Characteristics Questionnaire was created by Bielak as a new way of measuring the activities adults do every day. It focuses on the characteristics of activities; for example, an activity that involves being creative rather than specific activities such as knitting.

The study hopes to show whether this new method of measuring activity participation is a better predictor of cognitive ability than past methods. It will allow Bielak to determine which characteristics of activity are particularly important for cognitive ability. This knowledge can then be given to older adults about what they should try to incorporate or highlight in their own schedule of activity participation to promote cognitive health as they age.

The Activity Characteristics and Cognition Study will continue recruitment until 200 participants are tested.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, or how you can participate, go to, or contact the Healthy Cognitive Aging Lab at (970) 491-2804.

Contact: Gretchen Gerding
Phone: 491-5182