Aging is a complex phenomenon characterized by changes in cognitive and psychological functioning. It is thus paramount to understand age-related changes in core aspects of human functioning, along with the underlying mechanisms that could explain them. To promote/sustain older adults’ functioning and quality of life, independently of their aging trajectories (typical vs pathological aging), it is necessary to develop intervention strategies always considering the role of individual differences in explain age effects.
HEALTHY AGING | Age-related and individual differences, assessment and interventions
– Unlike what one might commonly think, not all of us undergo the same age-related cognitive and psychological changes. The aging process is, in fact, characterized by a high interindividual variability. We focus on the assessment of age-related and individual differences in core cognitive mechanisms (e.g., working memory, inhibition), complex cognitive abilities (e.g., text processing, spatial cognition, everyday problem solving) and memory functioning (e.g., episodic memory). We are also examining the role of personality as well as metacognitive processes (e.g., metamemory) on cognitive functioning (e.g., spatial cognition, memory)
– Sleep quality represents a key health indicator of an individual. We investigate the association between sleep quality and psychological outcomes, such as quality of life, in older age, as well as to what extent personality and sleep-related metacognition are related to sleep quality in the adulthood lifespan.
– In order to capture the complex and multifaceted nature of age-related changes in cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes, it is paramount to have reliable and comprehensive tools. We design batteries and tools for: (i) a multidimensional assessment of cognitive, psychological and emotional functioning, (ii) everyday functioning across the adult lifespan. We are also interested in detecting well-known protective factors against age-related cognitive decline, such as cognitive reserve. We have designed a new survey assessing a varied typology of lifestyle related socio-behavioral domains that are proxies of cognitive reserve across different life-stages, to capture its multidimensional and dynamic nature.
The detrimental costs associated with cognitive aging have driven research to identify effective solutions to support older adults’ cognitive functioning and promote their autonomy and well-being. Cognitive interventions represent a promising answer to counteract/delay age-related cognitive decline, so as to promote an active aging. We design working memory training for healthy older adults, and we are also interested in understanding the role of individual characteristics and training features (e.g., music listening or teaching strategies as pre-training activities) in influencing the efficacy of such cognitive interventions. We seek to understand whether WM training could promote endurable transfer effects to everyday functioning both in young-old and old-old adults. We also design strategic-metacognitive interventions targeting (episodic) memory, and we are interested in understanding the efficacy of programs that adopt a metacognitive approach in supporting not only the cognitive but also the metacognitive functioning of older adults.
PATHOLOGICAL AGING | Cognitive Stimulation Therapy
Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older adults, with tremendous negative consequences for both people with dementia and their caregivers’ quality of life. Identifying effective psychosocial (non-pharmacological) interventions that allow to support the cognitive and psychological functioning of people with dementia has become of interest in recent years.
We developed the Italian adaptation of the Cognitive Stimulation Therapy protocol (CST-IT) and have examined its efficacy for Italian people with mild-to-moderate dementia. We are also focused in understanding the role of individual characteristics in influencing the efficacy of the CST-IT.
RESEARCH on COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop us!
Cognitive, emotional and psychological functioning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in young and older adults. This one yearlong study has showed that older adults better face an unexpected and prolonged stressful situation, like the COVID-19 pandemic, better than younger generations, thanks to their emotional resilience.
Sleep quality and sleep-related metacognition in young and older adults before and during the lockdown. The lockdown seemed not to have an impact on sleep quality both in young and older adults. However, we have found that dysfunctional sleep-related beliefs (maladaptive expectations and attitudes regarding the causes, and consequences of sleeping issues) have to be considered when we examine the impact of stressful events (such as a period of quarantine) on sleep quality, especially where older adults are concerned.
Taking care of a person with dementia under lockdown: the case of informal caregivers. This pilot study offers insight on the effects of loneliness and resilience, as well as of other individual characteristics (e.g., gender, dementia severity), on the experience and consequences of informal caregiving for relatives with dementia in times of restrictions imposed by a pandemic.