There is a scarcity of naturalistic follow-up studies on cognitive stimulating activities (CSAs), particularly in a real-world setting and over long-term. We thus investigated a pooled novel CSA intervention to prevent cognitive decline amongst community-dwelling older adults without dementia.
Nested within a community-based longitudinal follow-up cohort study of community-dwelling and multi-ethnic older adults (N = 991), a subset of the cohort (n = 264) underwent four single-blinded randomized controlled trials involving four novel CSAs, including mindfulness, horticulture, art therapy, and choral singing. At the cohort’s 5-year follow-up, we examined if involvements in the CSAs improved cognition, compared to controls (n = 727). The primary outcomes were changes in global cognition and specific cognitive domain scores measured by the mini-mental state examination (MMSE). Exploratory subgroup analyses stratified by baseline cognitive status and the number of CSAs were also conducted.
Compared to the control group, there was a small improvement in the CSA group on the total MMSE score (d = 0.108) and MMSE-immediate recall score (d = 0.199). Furthermore, subgroup analyses revealed medium effect sizes of improvements (d = 0.420) in cognitive domains in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (vs. cognitively healthy) and those involved in two CSAs (vs. one CSA).
In summary, a CSA intervention improved cognition. MCI and those involved in two CSAs gained greater benefits from the CSAs. These sustained improvements in cognitive functions could have a significant impact on delaying or preventing dementia.