The study of cognitive function in gerontology is considered relevant because it is an important risk factor for other pathologies in the old age, such as physical disability and dependence, depression, and frailty, mainly because of early pathological changes in cognitive function which are considered a preclinical state that may progress to dementia. In this chapter, cognitive functioning and the dimensions that are included in it (attention, memory, meta-memory, processing speed, executive functions, visuospatial skills, and language) are conceptualized. Additionally, the current evidence is analyzed regarding age-associated changes that are experienced during cognitive aging. These changes, or cognitive decline, are distinguished from those that are part of cognitive pathologies, the most common mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Such pathologies are conceptualized based on the current diagnostic criteria, and controversies and challenges are discussed. Additionally, we analyze the risk factors for cognitive functioning in aging, both modifiable and nonmodifiable ones. A review of the main nonpharmacological intervention techniques used from the gerontology approach is made. It includes the cognitive training in the case of age-related decline or techniques of stimulation and cognitive rehabilitation in the case of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Finally, we conclude with an analysis of the current state of this topic in the field of gerontology and its relevance in professional practice.
Part of the book: Gerontology