Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Marieke Van Puymbroeck Chancellor, Ph.D., CTRS, FDRT

Committee Member

Ryan Gagnon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Francis McGuire, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Vidotto, Ph.D.


Leisure activities are a major component of healthy aging, associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline and enhanced cognitive function. However, there is wide variation in the conceptualization and measurement of leisure. Specific leisure activities or domains have been studied in association with cognition in aging. More recently, researchers have noted that attributes of the activity, rather than the activity itself, may be significant. This study explored the current state of knowledge regarding attributes of leisure activities that foster cognition in aging. A literature review using PRISMA Scoping Review guidelines identified objectively and subjectively measured attributes of leisure engagement in aging associated with neuroprotection or neuroenhancement. Nine databases were searched for research from 2000 – 2021 providing empirical information about the salient features of leisure activity engagement that foster cognition in aging. Sixty-five articles met study criteria, and nine leisure engagement attributes were identified: frequency, intensity, duration, variety, novelty, productivity, enjoyment, meaning, and self-direction. A second study explored characteristics of older adults purported to be successfully cognitively aging. Cross-sectional data collected from a nationwide survey administered to 344 participants in Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes revealed characteristics associated with cognitive reserve, cognitive ability, and successful aging. A third study using same data set, explored motivation for engagement in leisure activities and how this correlated with and predicted cognitive reserve, cognitive ability, and successful aging. This study extends the understanding of attributes of leisure engagement that foster cognition in aging and provides direction for the promotion of cognitive wellbeing and successful aging.

Author ORCID Identifier




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