Family resources and cognitive decline among elderly in Italy

Fausta Ongaro, Università di Padova
Stefano Mazzuco, Università di Padova
Silvia Meggiolaro, Università di Padova

Family ties may play an important role in the wellbeing of the elderly. In this paper, we examine the association between living arrangements and the cognitive decline among people over 65 in Italy in the hypothesis that living with others (i.e. children and/or spouse) vis –à- vis living alone may have positive effects on cognitive functioning. To this end we used data from the first two waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which provides five indicators of cognitive functions: orientation, memory, recall, verbal fluency and numeracy. Cognitive decline was measured considering the differences between the first and the second wave in each of these five indicators. Preliminary results rejected the hypothesis of a protective effect of living with others and slower cognitive decline in the different dimensions. In particular, elderly living with children seem to worse their cognitive abilities more than elderly living alone, net of other confounding covariates. Further analyses taking into account the potential bias due to the “re-test effect” suggest that a similar result could be expected even for old people living with the spouse (a significant re-test effect was indeed found for couples regards verbal fluency and orientation). However, more in depth analyses are needed to consider other potential bias connected with selection provided by attrition between the first and the second wave.

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Presented in Session 93: Health and wellbeing at older ages