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Volume 17, Issue 2 - May 2017

Lunchtime talk adds interdisciplinary flavor to workshop

“We as epidemiologists are interested in understanding the biological aspects of all this,” Mendes de Leon said. In the case of his first study, he and his co-authors examined how the Alzheimer’s genotype might impact cognitive decline. “There was no significant interaction, but there was the interesting finding that the effect of the [predictive risk factor for cognitive decline]… was somewhat greater in those in the 10th percentile, the lower level percentile of occupational cognitive requirements, than it was for those at the 90th percentile. [That risk factor] seems to suggestively have a more damaging effect among those who have these much lower levels of cognitive requirements at work.”

The second study Mendes de Leon shared examined pre- and post-retirement functional health changes (mobility and large muscle limitations) and how socioeconomic position might interact with them. Not surprising for those familiar with the aging process, the years before retirement bring significant changes to functional health that continue to increase more slowly after retirement. Mendes de Leon had a little good news: People who retire later show slower declines in mobility and large muscle abilities. Alas, later retirees don’t keep those benefits. “Whatever gains you made before retirement by working longer and not declining as much as people who retired at [full-retirement age] or even early, unfortunately, afterword it starts going back up again—you compensate for that.”