Motivational Reserve: Lifetime Motivational Abilities Contribute to Cognitive and Emotional Health in Old Age

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The authors recently developed the concept of motivational reserve, which implies a set of motivational abilities that provide individuals with resilience to neuropathological damage. This study investigated how lifetime motivational abilities are associated with current cognitive status, mild cognitive impairment, and psychological well-being in old age. A community sample of 147 participants without dementia between 60 and 94 years of age, stratified for age group, sex, and education, completed motivation and well-being questionnaires and cognitive tests. A new procedure was used to estimate their midlife motivational and cognitive abilities on the basis of their main occupation using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) system. O*NET-estimated motivational abilities predicted cognitive status, psychological well-being, and odds of mild cognitive impairment, even when age, sex, education, and cognitive ability were controlled. Although O*NET-estimated cognitive abilities were not significant predictors, scores on a measure of crystallized intelligence were associated with current cognitive status and odds of mild cognitive impairment. Findings suggest that motivational reserve acts as a protective factor against the manifestation of cognitive impairment and emotional problems in later life.

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