BACKGROUND: To establish trajectories of cognitive and motor function, and to determine the sequence of change across individual tests in community-dwelling individuals aged 45-90 years. METHOD: Between 1997 and 2016, we repeatedly assessed cognitive function with 5 tests in 9514 participants aged 45-90 years from the population-based Rotterdam Study. Between 1999 and 2016, we measured motor function with 3 tests in 8297 participants. All participants were free from dementia, stroke, and parkinsonism. We assessed overall and education-specific cognitive and motor trajectories using linear mixed models with age as time scale. Next, we determined the sequence of change across individual tests. RESULTS: The number of assessments per participant ranged between 1 and 6 (mean interval, years [SD]: 5.1 [1.4]) for cognitive function, and 1 and 4 (5.4 [1.4]) for motor function. Cognitive and motor trajectories declined linearly between ages 45 and 65 years, followed by steeper declines after ages 65-70 years. Lower educated participants had lower cognitive function at age 45 years (baseline), and declined faster on most cognitive, but not on motor tests than higher educated participants. Up to a 25-year age difference between the fastest and slowest declining test scores was observed. CONCLUSIONS: On a population-level, cognitive and motor function decline similarly. Compared to higher educated individuals, lower educated individuals had lower cognitive function at baseline, and a faster rate of decline thereafter. These educational-effects were not seen for motor function. These findings benefit the understanding of the natural course of cognitive and motor function during aging, and highlight the role of education in the preservation of cognitive but not motor function.

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The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences
Department of Epidemiology

van der Willik, K., Licher, S., Vinke, E.J. (Elisabeth J.), Knol, M.J. (Maria J.), Darweesh, S., van der Geest, J., … Ikram, A. (2021). Trajectories of Cognitive and Motor Function Between Ages 45 and 90 Years: A Population-Based Study. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 76(2), 297–306. doi:10.1093/gerona/glaa187