Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Craig P. McFarland

Commitee Members

Stuart Hall, Kerry J. Haney


cognitive reserve, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, handicrafts, handicraft activities


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Geropsychology | Health Psychology


With increasing age, older individuals face a higher likelihood of developing dementia. The rate of cognitive decline resulting from dementia is not equivalent for all, as some patients with dementia are able to function independently longer than others, despite having similar disease burden. The cognitive reserve (CR) theory provides one explanation for the differing rate of decline. CR suggests that there are factors — most notably, educational and occupational attainment — that can protect against the cognitive decline that is a hallmark of dementia. Although the beneficial effects of these notable CR factors are clear, they may not be modifiable. Participation in leisure activities may represent a more modifiable factor. Some research hints at beneficial effects of leisure activities, although specific leisure activities have not been examined. The present study examined the relations between handicraft art leisure activities (HALAs) and multiple cognitive domains. Archival WAIS-IV, WMS-IV, and demographic data for 50 California retirement community residents was examined. Results revealed that HALA participation may play a role in the maintenance of cognitive function in multiple domains. HALA participation accounted for statistically significant variance in working memory performance over and above the established CR factors of education, age, depression, and occupation. In addition, HALA participation was found to be related to a better ability to perform abstract visual information tasks and non-verbal reasoning tasks. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that HALA participation among older adults could contribute to the retention of cognitive function, supporting the role of HALA participation as a CR factor.



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