This study aims to examine cohort differences in cognitive performance and rates of change in episodic memory, processing speed, inductive reasoning, and general cognitive performance and to investigate whether these cohort effects may be accounted for by education attainment.
The first cohort (N = 705) was born between 1920 and 1930, whereas the second cohort (N = 646) was born between 1931 and 1941. Both birth cohorts were aged 65 to 75 years at baseline and were followed up 3 and 6 years later. Data were analyzed using linear mixed models.
The later born cohort had better general cognitive performance, inductive reasoning, and processing speed at baseline, but cohort differences in inductive reasoning and general cognitive performance disappeared after adjusting for education. The later born cohort showed steeper decline in processing speed. Memory decline was steeper in the earlier born cohort but only from Time 1 to Time 3 when the same memory test was administered. Education did not account for cohort differences in cognitive decline.
The later born cohort showed better initial performance in certain cognitive abilities, but no better preservation of cognitive abilities overtime compared with the earlier born cohort. These findings carry implications for healthy cognitive aging.