The early environment is thought to be a critical period in understanding the cognitive health disparities African Americans face today. Much is known about the positive role enriching environments have in mid- and late-life and the negative function adverse experiences have in childhood; however, little is known about the relationship between enriching childhood experiences and late life cognition. The current study examines the link between variety of enriching early life activities with late life cognitive functioning in a sample of sociodemographic at-risk older adults.
This study used data from African Americans from the Brain and Health Substudy of The Baltimore Experience Corps Trial (M = 67.2, SD = 5.9; N = 93). Participants completed a battery of neuropsychological assessments and a seven-item retrospective inventory of enriching activities before age 13.
Findings revealed that a greater enriching early life activities score was linked to favorable outcomes in educational attainment, processing speed, and executive functioning.
Results provide promising evidence that enriching early environments are associated with late life educational and cognitive outcomes. Findings support the cognitive reserve and engagement frameworks and have implications to extend lifespan prevention approaches when tackling age-related cognitive declines, diseases, and health disparities.