Title: Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action
Report brief (opens PDF)
Description: People forget things—a name, where they put their keys, a phone number—and yet what is dismissed as a minor inconvenience at 25 years of age, can evolve into a momentary anxiety at 35, and a major source of personal worry at ages 55 or 60. Forgetfulness at older ages is often equated with a decline in cognition—a public health issue that goes beyond memory lapses and one that can have significant impacts on independent living and healthy aging. The term “cognition” covers many mental abilities and processes including decision making, memory, attention, and problem-solving. At this point in time, when the older population is rapidly growing in the United States and across the globe, it is important to carefully examine what is known about cognitive aging, to identify the positive steps that can be taken to promote cognitive health, and then to take action to implement those changes by informing and activating the public, the health sector, nonprofit and professional associations, communities, the private sector, and government agencies. This Institute of Medicine (IOM) study examines cognitive aging, a natural process associated with advancing years. The IOM committee was charged with assessing the public health dimensions of cognitive aging with an emphasis on definitions and terminology, epidemiology and surveillance, prevention and intervention, education of health professionals, and public awareness and education.