Reaching the Goal: Superior Navigators in Late Adulthood Provide a Novel Perspective into Successful Cognitive Aging

Cognitive Science 15 (1):15-45 (2023)
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Abstract

Normal aging is typically associated with declines in navigation and spatial memory abilities. However, increased interindividual variability in performance across various navigation/spatial memory tasks is also evident with advancing age. In this review paper, we shed the spotlight on those older individuals who exhibit exceptional, sometimes even youth-like navigational/spatial memory abilities. Importantly, we (1) showcase observations from existing studies that demonstrate superior navigation/spatial memory performance in late adulthood, (2) explore possible cognitive correlates and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these preserved spatial abilities, and (3) discuss the potential link between the superior navigators in late adulthood and SuperAgers (older adults with superior episodic memory). In the closing section, given the lack of studies that directly focus on this subpopulation, we highlight several important directions that future studies could look into to better understand the cognitive characteristics of older superior navigators and the factors enabling such successful cognitive aging.

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