Can Neighborhood Social Infrastructure Modify Cognitive Function? A Mixed-Methods Study of Urban-Dwelling Aging Americans

Jessica Finlay, Michael Esposito, Mao Li, Lindsay C. Kobayashi, Anam M. Khan, Iris Gomez-Lopez, Robert Melendez, Natalie Colabianchi, Suzanne Judd, Philippa J. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: Socialization predicts cognitive aging outcomes. Neighborhoods may facilitate socially engaged aging and thus shape cognition. We investigated places where older adults socialized and whether availability of these sites was associated with cognitive outcomes. Methods: Qualitative analysis of interviews and ethnography with 125 older adults (mean age 71 years) in Minneapolis identified where participants socialized outside of home. This informed quantitative analysis of a national sample of 21,151 older Americans (mean age at baseline 67 years) from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study. Multilevel generalized additive models described associations between access to key social places and cognitive function and decline. Results: Qualitative analysis identified eateries, senior centers, and civic groups as key places to socialize. We identified significant positive associations between kernel density of senior centers, civic/social organizations, and cognitive function. Discussion: Specific neighborhood social infrastructures may support cognitive health among older adults aging in place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-785
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of aging and health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project is supported by cooperative agreement U01 NS041588 co-funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Service. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NINDS or the NIA. The authors thank the other investigators, the staff, and the participants of the REGARDS study for their valuable contributions. A full list of participating REGARDS investigators and institutions can be found at:

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Funding for this project was provided by NIH/NIA grant 1RF1AG057540-01 (Clarke), the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research Postdoctoral Translational Scholar Program UL1 TR002240-02 (Finlay), and NIH/NIA Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship F32 AG064815-01 (Finlay).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • cognitive function
  • environment
  • neighborhoods
  • social support
  • well-being


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